Connect with us

The question always persists: Is this the year for the Northwestern Wildcats? It is hard to prove, but there are reasons to believe.

Caution is always the word for the Northwestern fan when it comes to the basketball team.

The one big question always looms and it is easy for people to get excited and race ahead, thinking about March before January has even begun. The Wildcats are not playing super elite teams and their few chances to score the big win typically fall short.

And then the Wildcats fall flat in Big Ten play — the ultimate decider of their fate each year — unable to get the big win they need to get over the hump.

Yet, here comes Finals Week in Evanston. Northwestern is sitting at 6-2 with respectable losses to Butler (KenPom No. 20) and Notre Dame (KenPom No. 25). Their best win is over KenPom No. 53 Wake Forest and the Cats still play KenPom No. 41 Dayton.

Northwestern’s resume is intriguing if not quite impressive yet through the meat of the team’s non-conference schedule.

The Wildcats, as they always do, have to be stellar within the Big Ten to get over that hump finally.

That is the usual story with Northwestern, though. That part is not any different. The Wildcats always have to be that way. Their non-conference schedule is good but not great and they typically split those key games.

Something feels different this time. Perhaps it is the endless optimism of Northwestern finally breaking that streak and making the NCAA Tournament. March dreams begin to dance around as the team heads into the conference schedule.

Embed from Getty Images

But that feels even more realistic with the way Northwestern has won. The Wildcats are playing basketball at a higher level, blowing out poorer teams with ease and a constant barrage of 3-point shooting. The Cats got star turns from their star players. They have seen underclassmen step up into new roles and everyone else fill in.

Bryant McIntosh going off for 17 points in the second half to defeat Wake Forest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is not something a Northwestern team does. Posting a 95.5 adjusted defensive rating, near the top 50 in the entire nation, is not something Northwestern does. Shooting a 53.7 percent effective field goal percentage as a team is not something Northwestern does.

The Wildcats feel different this year. There is still skepticism but also a growing belief that, yes, this may be the year for Northwestern.

For the first time in several years, Northwestern has a bit more balance offensively. Bryant McIntosh had to carry the load over and over again last year, playing nearly the entire game while shouldering nearly all of the scoring load and playmaking load.

McIntosh has struggled to start the season. He is averaging 12.9 points and 4.6 assists per game. He has not been the catalyst for Northwestern early. But there is still plenty of confidence he can take over and bring his numbers up. There is no reason to believe he cannot return to his averages.

The emergence though of Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law has transformed Northwestern.

Lindsey, a role player with last year’s team who struggled to make shots consistently, is averaging 15.5 points per game while shooting 46.4 percent from beyond the arc. He has a 56.7 percent effective field goal percentage.

Lindsey, in other words, is on fire from beyond the arc. And it is not just that he is a strong shooter. He is also good at attacking the basket and scoring in transition. New elements to his game that have helped lift him.

He already had cemented himself as one of Northwestern’s better defenders.

After missing all of last year, Vic Law has looked like the ESPNU 100 player he was two years ago when he became the most highly touted recruit Northwestern has likely ever brought in.

He leads the team in scoring with 16.1 points per game, making 54.1 percent of his 3-pointers. And he does take quite a few of those.

Law is the athletic scorer Northwestern has never had and, as just a sophomore, still has plenty of room to grow on both ends.

The mix of all this talent, along with key role players like senior Sanjay Lumpkin and Gavin Skelly with freshman Isaiah Brown as a backup point guard scoring dynamo and sophomore Dererk Pardon as a rebounder and banger down low, and the Wildcats begin to look like a real team.

The path is never easy for Northwestern. Pardon is out until at least January with a hand injury suffered last week. His absence will be huge for Northwestern without another big body in the post or a strong rebounder. Freshman Barrett Benson will have to fill the role.

It does still seem Northwestern is one misfortune away from the whole thing collapsing. That is the nature of Northwestern.

And no one is going to speak too loudly about March plans. The Wildcats still have that goal in mind, but making the NIT would be a huge step for Chris Collins and his program as the continues to push the program.

Results will matter and Northwestern needs to see some postseason results. Once the big door opens, who knows what Northwestern can be?

There it goes racing ahead again. The Wildcats have played some stellar defense. They have shot the ball incredibly well. Will that all last? What will happen when the chips are laid down in conference play?

Northwestern has challenged itself with its schedule more than in years past. And the Wildcats have scored some big wins. The way this team has played, it is hard to explain and hard to prove.

The way this team has played, it is hard to explain and hard to prove, but hope remains that this may finally be the year.

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

Continue Reading

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. 

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading

Most Popular

Copyright © 2018 This site is not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by the Big Ten Conference. It is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only and is no way associated with the NCAA, the Big Ten or any member institutions.