Connect with us

Widcats Basketball

Northwestern Wildcats enter the big stage, now prove you belong

Published

on

Bryant McIntosh, Chris Collins, Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern had its big moment on CBS and acquitted themselves well. Now they must prove they belong for good.

It was completely surreal.

The familiar tones of the NCAA on CBS played and Jim Nantz — hello, friends — welcomed the audience to Evanston, Ill., and Welsh-Ryan Arena. He then introduced his broadcast team of Grant Hill — THAT Grant Hill — and Bill Rafferty — ONIONS!

The Final Four broadcast team was there for Northwestern’s final home game. The final weekend of the NCAA regular season and the college basketball world had descended on tiny (not so tiny) Evanston. Northwestern was the reason.

Or at least half the reason. The other half was the Big Ten regular season champion Purdue Boilermakers were in town. This was a game featuring two of the Big Ten’s best — another surreal statement made this Sunday.

And the game? Northwestern again lived up to the moment. Almost.

The game delivered a nail biter.

Northwestern took a nine-point lead in the first half. Purdue stormed back to take a nine-point lead in the second half. Northwestern stormed back.

And with about a minute to play, the Wildcats ran a play to get Nathan Taphorn a 3-pointer. The hero from Wednesday’s full-court throw to defeat Michigan and send Northwestern (essentially) to its first NCAA Tournament air-balled his 3-pointer. Purdue held on for a 69-65 win to close Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Northwestern’s football and basketball history are marked by these kinds of games. The team gets to the big stage with the spotlight shining directly on them and then they put up a good fight and lose. That is Northwestern history. It just usually ends up costing them.

This time it will not. This time Northwestern was playing with house money and have one of the team’s ultimate goals in its pocket. The Wildcats are probably (definitely) going to the NCAA Tournament.

And so Sunday’s game needs to be the last time Northwestern’s basketball team feels that feeling of a moral victory. The Wildcats defeated Wisconsin on the road, they toppled a now-surging Wake Forest team and Dayton at a neutral site.

It is Tournament time. And Northwestern is here to win. This team is good enough to do so — they have proven that time and time again.

With no pressure to make the bubble, the Big Ten Tournament is an exercise of Tournament practice. Yes, that is an actual statement everyone can legitimately make about Northwestern.

But this is no longer the feel-good story. Northwestern can no longer think of itself as that plucky little team that tries and tries. This is the cultural shift Northwestern wants to make across its revenue sports.

The Wildcats are here to win. They should be here to win. They are capable of winning.

Northwestern always envisioned that first NCAA Tournament berth would see them squarely on the bubble and unsure for Selection Sunday. Northwestern will have a celebration next Sunday.

Whether Northwestern is the home seed or the road seed in the Tournament, they should feel confident they can play into the weekend. This should be the goal. The Wildcats have proven throughout this season they are not just sneaking in and happy to be there. They are ready to win.

And that starts with the Purdue game. Northwestern stood toe to toe and lost a toss-up game with the Big Ten champion. That should provide some confidence for the NCAA Tournament. There is a path to the semifinal and a chance to build some major momentum (Northwestern’s close loss to Minnesota earlier in the season is an intriguing quarterfinal matchup).

Losses are no longer OK. Moral victories are no longer OK. These are single elimination tournaments now. And there is an opportunity to make history and realize this team’s full potential.

What is important is for Northwestern to believe this. The Wildcats must now believe they are good enough not only to make the Tournament, but to make noise.

That, of course, is the next evolution for the program. To win these big games regularly. Northwestern was spotty against the top teams in the conference, earning just one win over the five teams ahead of them in the Big Ten standings. Although plenty of them were close.

Northwestern hung with Purdue well Sunday. That is a constant narrative this season. The Wildcats can hang with the big teams, but cannot beat them. This goes dating back to their loss to Butler.

Now that Northwestern is in. Now that Northwestern has climbed that hurdle. They have to prove they belong.

The Big Ten Tournament is a start. Getting a win or two would really serve some notice.

The goal for the Wildcats is no longer getting into the NCAA Tournament. The goal is to make it to the weekend.

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
Comments

Widcats Basketball

WATCH: Northwestern unveils inside look at Welsh-Ryan Arena

Published

on

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

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.

Published

on

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.

https://twitter.com/j2lathon/status/1000145538745028608

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

Northwestern

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.

Published

on

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

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.

Published

on

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
Advertisement

talking10 Podcast

Most Popular

Copyright © 2018 talking10.com. 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.