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When: Sat., March 16, 2017; 5:15 p.m. ET/2:15 p.m. CT
Where: Salt Lake City, Utah; Vivint Smart Home Arena (19,911)
All-Time Series: First Meeting
Last Meeting: First Meeting
Line: Gonzaga (-11)

The buzz and good feeling has not quite worn off here in Salt Lake City.

Walking around downown Salt Lake City, there is still a massive amount of purple and a feeling of camraderie and optimism in the wake of the team’s stunning and nerve-wracking win over Vanderbilt on Thursday. The dream continues for the Wildcats.

And it is that, a dream. It feels like Northwestern is playing with house money. Getting to the Tournament was incredible. Winning a game was beyond comprehension.

Fans are in a state of constant joy. And they cannot wait to party again Saturday.

The team? Northwestern is likely locked away in its hotel and in its meetings focused on doing the impossible. There was a moment of celebration — by now, everyone has seen the water bottle celebrations with Chris Collins in the locker room (a common celebration after big wins for this team) — and the team soaked it all in as fans cheered them on their return to the hotel after the game.

There is still another game. And a tournament team’s mettle is tested in playing that second game.

Northwestern learned the most important Tournament lesson Thursday — survive and advance.

The team is playing with house money right now, but have their eyes sight on the doubly impossible Sweet Sixteen. It is so tantalizingly close.

But the path there is not easy. The eighth-seeded Wildcats take on the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs. The same Gonzaga team that has lost just one game all year in the West Coast Conference. The team with not one, but two bruising big men and solid shooters to spread the floor.

It is a tough task for the Wildcats. And Northwestern will fight not only a good team in front of them but the sense they have accomplished what they set out to do. Or maybe they have not.

Maybe the team’s belief goes deeper than even the most optimistic fans could have though. The NCAA Tournament was so unrealistic, no one though winning a game was possible in this first trip. Now that the Wildcats have won again. . . it is time to believe again.

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1 Burning Question: Will Northwestern’s depth (or lack thereof) play a role?

Northwestern is not a deep team. It has been a not-so-big secret throughout the season. The Wildcats rely heavily on their starters, especially at two critical positions.

Bryant McIntosh is probably the best player on the team. After scoring 25 points in the first round win over Vanderbilt, that was made abundantly clear.

But the most nervous moments for the Wildcats came when McIntosh was out of the game, for whatever short time it was. McIntosh faced some early foul trouble and the team had to hope Isiah Brown could hold the ship steady.

There were a few moments when the Wildcats had to turn to bench units without McIntosh that were just plain shaky. It was Chris Collins trying to steal some rest for his star player.

And that will go double for Dererk Pardon. Pardon essentially matched Luke Kornett’s minutes on Thursday. He will not have that luxury with Gonzaga’s bevy of bigs — including the monstrous Przemik Karnowski and the super talented Zach Collins.

These matchups will be important, but how Northwestern steals rest for these two players and how their backups — Isiah Brown and Barrett Benson — play could decide the game.

2 Key Stats

–6: Dererk Pardon is a 54.4 percent free throw shooter. And Northwestern itself was struggling from the line throughout Thursday’s game. So when Pardon stepped to the line three times late, there were a few nerves as Vanderbilt came back. Pardon hit six straight free throws for the Wildcats to help them clinch the game. An occurrence that is statistically improbable.

–37.7: Northwestern will not face a team with flamethrower 3-point shooting quite like Vanderbilt on Saturday. But the Wildcats cannot sleep on the Bulldogs’ 3-point shooting either. The team shoots 37.7 percent from beyond the arc on 19.4 attempts per game. This team has some shooters and will make the 3-pointers they take. Look out for Jordan Williams and Nigel Williams-Goss.

3 Key Players

Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga Guard: Northwestern’s primary defensive responsibility will be slowing down Nigel Williams-Goss. Goss averages a team-best 16.6 points per game and shoots 51.3 percent from the floor. He is not a shooter, he is a driver and creates havoc in the paint. Especially with Karnowski roaming the paint. He averages 4.6 assists per game. Bottling him up will be priority one for Gonzaga.

Vic Law, Northwestern Forward: Scottie Lindsey is likely to get a lot of the responsibility on Williams-Goss. That means a lot of his energy is spent defensively. For Northwestern to win, the team will need Vic Law to get out of this shooting slump and contribute. Law scored two points on 1-for-8 shooting and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc in Thursday’s game. Since Feb. 1, he is shooting just 32.2 percent.

Zach Collins, Gonzaga Center: The most important minutes in the game for Northwestern are likely going to be when Dererk Pardon is out of the game. And that could be dangerous no matter how is at center. Collins is the backup and could eat against Barrett Benson. Collins is averaging 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game off the bench. He is the Bulldogs’ best NBA prospect and likely could go in the Lottery. Collins is extremely skilled on the low block and can step out and shoot 3-pointers too.


Northwestern has a tall task ahead of it in trying to topple the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Gonzaga has weaknesses. The Bulldogs do not rely heavily on the 3-point line and have had some consistency issues playing full games. And for sure, Gonzaga has not played a challenging schedule. They can get pushed. Look at how South Dakota State hung with them for much of the game.

But the Bulldogs are still very good. They will pound the Wildcats inside and attack the glass. Northwestern is going to have to swarm to secure possessiona nd control the pace of the game. That will be difficult with Gonzaga’s constant attack and better depth.

Northwestern should put in a good fight and hang around this game. But ultimately, there are too many weak spots. McIntosh gets in foul trouble? Game over. Pardon is in foul trouble or cannot play 35 minutes? Game over.

Gonzaga has all the advantages. The Bulldogs get pushed, but pull away in the end.

Gonzaga 75, Northwestern 63

Philip Rossman-Reich is a Northwestern alumnus and former contributor Lake The Posts. He also writes for Orlando Magic Daily and The Step Back.

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Widcats Basketball

WATCH: Northwestern unveils inside look at Welsh-Ryan Arena



After a year spent at the strange confines of Allstate Arena out in Rosemont, the Northwestern Wildcats basketball teams will return home to Welsh-Ryan Arena for the 2018-19 season. 

On Friday, the Wildcats released a video look at what the new-look arena actually looks like ahead of the opener. 

Take a look at this state-of-the-art arena built around the old school appearance on the outside. 

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Northwestern Wildcats caught in a bind with Jordan Lathon’s surprise release

Northwestern University has rescinded their offer of admission to star guard Jordan Lathon. That leaves Northwestern in a deep bind at point guard.



Bryant McIntosh, Chris Collins, Northwestern Wildcats

The Northwestern Wildcats have seen a sudden rash of transfers that have begun to gut the roster some. Especially at the important point guard position.

One more loss might be the biggest and most mysterious of them all.

Friday, Inside NU reports Northwestern had rescinded its offer of admission and the national letter of intent to Jordan Lathon. Lathon responded on Twitter, thanking coach Chris Collins and the Northwestern community for their support. It is not clear at this point why Lathon was unable to enroll at Northwestern.

Whatever the issues are — whether it was Lathon not meeting some requirement or Lathon deciding to go to a different school — everyone has to hope Lathon find the place and the situation that fits best for him — both on and off the court.

There will be an undoubted effect on the court for the Wildcats in losing this prized recruit.

Lathon was a four-star prospect from Grandview, Missouri. He was undoubtedly one of the best recruits — at least from the recruiting services — ever to come to Northwestern. The kind of player that only Chris Collins seemed capable of getting for this program. And, yes, a direct beneficiary of the Wildcats’ first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.

With Bryant McIntosh graduating and Isiah Brown transferring, Northwestern was thin at point guard. There seemed to be a very realistic chance Lathon would start this year. His departure leaves the Wildcats with just Jordan Ash and Anthony Gaines to play point guard. Both struggled to stay in the rotation last year.

That puts the Wildcats in a major bind on the court. The team is going to need someone to step up. And then eventually to find a long-term answer at the position — possibly in the upcoming recruiting class now that Lathon is gone.

It is hard to say a whole lot about Lathon’s situation. The reason he will not be attending Northwestern is unclear. All we know is Northwestern denied his admission for whatever reason.

And now Chris Collins will have to scramble to find a replacement or make due with what he has and hope someone steps up.

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Recruiting loss leaves Northwestern in a point guard bind

The Northwestern Wildcats struggled with their point guard depth last year, relying heavily on Bryant McIntosh. Now he is gone and a recruiting loss leaves a lot of questions at this critical spot.



Northwestern Wildcats, Jordan Ash

The Northwestern Wildcats’ disappointing basketball season last year seemed like a blip on the road to consistent respectability. This was still a program and a team on the rise with a strong head coach, a renovated building and the budding confidence to assert itself.

Last year’s team — largely a run back of the previous year’s breakthrough NCAA Tournament team — never quite got itself off the ground. Perhaps everyone expected success to roll over easy. Maybe the team really missed the intangible tough qualities from graduating senior Sanjay Lumpkin. Maybe injuries were just too much to overcome.

It was not a good year. But optimism remains for 2019.

The Wildcats know they will have their work cut out for them in the debut of the new Welsh-Ryan Arena. They have veteran players like Vic Law and Dererk Pardon to anchor the team. But it has also been a summer of massive change for the program.

The team will be moving into the renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena at some point. But more importantly, the loss of seniors Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey leave a gaping hole for the program. Especially considering the other attrition from the roster — Rapolas Ivanauskas and Isiah Brown’s transfer.

If there was another contributing factor that no one spoke of that led to Northwestern’s difficult season, it was the poor development of young players, especially at guard.

Brown struggled to step into the role as the backup point guard, averaging 3.9 points per game and playing just 10.8 minutes per game. Freshman Anthony Gaines did not fare much better, averaging 4.0 points per game in 18.6 minutes per game.

McIntosh, even through injuries and his own shooting struggles, had to carry a heavy creation load for the team last year. He played 31.3 minutes per game for the season. And Lindsey and Law had to carry a heavy minutes burden too. Northwestern’s poor depth put a lot of strain on the team and it simply was not able to hold up.

That does not bode well with two of those heavy minute players gone. Their replacements are not particularly clear — although with a hopefully healthy Law, the team seems loaded on wings.

That is what made the pursuit of grad transfer Matt Mooney seemingly more important.

The South Dakota guard averaged 18.7 points per game and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 35.2 percent from beyond the arc. He is not going to completely change everyone’s fortunes, but he is clearly a capable scorer. And his recruitment in the grad transfer market was heated.

Northwestern already had a win in the grad transfer market with Ryan Taylor. But the team would not win this one. That will leave the Wildcats incredibly thin and uncertain at point guard.

That puts Northwestern in a tough spot at point guard.

Senior Jordan Ash, sophomore Anthony Gaines and incoming freshman Jordan Lathon are the only ball handlers on the roster now. Ash and Gaines have struggled in their time at Northwestern. Ash played only 11.3 minutes per game last year and has not taken that step forward.

Lathon is an intriguing prospect. He is a four-star prospect according to 247Sports and someone who could make an immediate impact. Freshmen can be fickle and unreliable, of course, but the Wildcats may not have any other options.

This is the hole the Wildcats will have to figure out heading into the season in November.

There is still a lot of time and Lathon and the other freshman have not arrived on campus. But Collins, despite winning the recruiting rankings relative to Northwestern, has not been as solid a player development coach as thought.

Ivanauskas was a celebrated recruit when he arrived in Evanston. Injuries kept him from making an impact in his first two years, but he is now gone from the program.

Law, the most celebrate recruit to arrive in Evanston, has had a solid career. He generated some NBA buzz, but it has been largely uneven too.

Collins may not have missed often enough to deter Northwestern’s seeming march forward. But there have been more than a few misses that have hurt the team’s depth.

A strong recruiting class with Pete Nance and Miller Kopp will add further depths on the wing. The Wildcats reaped the rewards from their NCAA Tournament appearance.

This should be a team in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament again in 2019. But it will only go as far as its point guard development can take it. If Lathon can make an immediate impact then Northwestern could again break through.

If he cannot, the losses in recruiting will stand out that much more.

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Northwestern Wildcats basketball seeks some punch in a grad transfer

The Northwestern Wildcats went to the transfer market to bolster their offense as the program tries to replace some key players and get back into the NCAA Tournament.



Chris Collins, Northwestern Wildcats

The Northwestern Wildcats basketball season did not end how anyone would want it. The careers for Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey did not end how anyone wanted them to. This is not the how the team was supposed to follow up its breakthrough NCAA Tournament season.

After that season went away, attention quickly turned to how the Wildcats would make the new Welsh-Ryan Arena feel like home. Northwestern was losing a lot — McIntosh was essentially the team’s heart and soul. And there was an unusual amount of attrition with Rapolas Ivanauskas and Isaiah Brown.

The Wildcats return Victor Law and Dererk Pardon as the anchors for their team. They will need to see more from Anthony Gaines and likely from incoming freshman Jordan Lathon. The Wildcats have some serious holes as they try to bounce back from last year.

Chris Collins dug into the transfer market and hoped to find someone who can help the Wildcats take that next step.

Former Evansville wing Ryan Taylor will transfer to Northwestern as a graduate transfer. Taylor averaged 21.2 points per game and shot 42.1 percent from beyond the arc for Evansville last year. He scored 47 total points in two games against Loyola (Chicago) last year, but there is not a ton of high-level competition on his immediate resume.

Either way, adding the 6-foot-6 forward will help Northwestern replace some of the production lost from Scottie Lindsey. And seeing him pick Northwestern over some other big schools makes this a big get.

As Bryce Bennett of BT Powerhouse notes, this commitment is a big deal for Northwestern. Taylor adds some much-needed shooting something Lindsey struggled with last year.

The team will return Law and Pardon as the anchors from that tournament team. Collins has helped add some talented wing players. But his freshman have not been ready to contribute immediately. Adding in role players like Aaron Falzon and sitting transfer A.J. Turner could make the Wildcats a dangerous team again.

But things will have to come together for them again. In a way they did not last year despite all the pieces being in place. If Northwestern learned anything last year, it is that nothing is guaranteed. Getting back to the tournament will take a lot of work.

And talent alone will not get there. Nor will the expectation of getting there.

Northwestern still has some major holes to fill. With McIntosh gone, the point guard position still feels like an open competition heading into the summer. Northwestern will have experienced wings to help spread the floor. And the team will need Law more than ever to play consistently — he seemed to tire out as the season went on last year.

It is looking like Northwestern will have a lot of the pieces again to make a run. Assuming the team continues to grow and comes together — especially on defense.

Adding a transfer like Taylor will only add to that puzzle. It makes for a potentially exciting a potent offense for the Wildcats this coming season.

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