We pulled together our group of editors to figure out what expectations they had for the men’s basketball team this year.
Ben Goren: 18-13 (8-10)
The Vic Law injury, like I wrote about earlier, is a huge blow to this team. 20 and change wins was a completely reasonable target with a greatly improved Law in tow (as most thought he would be). Without Law’s outside shooting, and perhaps most importantly his rebounding, this team isn’t exactly frightening.
In non-conference play, I see the Wildcats dropping the North Carolina game (hot taek right there), but also 2 of Virginia Tech, Columbia, Mizzou/Kansas State, and DePaul.
In conference, the Wildcats will feast on Rutgers, Penn State, Minnesota, and probably Nebraska, but the upper echelon are a far cry from where the Wildcats are now. If the ‘Cats can upset someone’s apple cart, it’s probably Michigan. Olah vs Doyle round two is still a huge edge for Northwestern.
The year where the Wildcats were supposed to make “The Leap” is once again pushed down the road.
Ryan Fish: 19-12 (8-10)
Postseason play is coming for the ‘Cats in 2016, but unfortunately that postseason won’t include Northwestern’s first NCAA Tournament appearance. The NIT is a decent bet for this team given the increase in talent and development of last year’s players. The Law injury certainly hurts, but this team has the depth to limit its impact. Some combination of Scottie Lindsey, Nathan Taphorn or Sanjay Lumpkin will have to step up in terms of minutes, but I truly think the injury, while hurtful, isn’t totally devastating. As usual, this team will win a couple games that it probably shouldn’t in conference play but also let a few tough ones slip away. If Northwestern wants to surprise some people and go for a serious run at the tournament, it can only afford a loss to UNC in non-conference and get close to 10 conference wins when it’s all said and done. In a stacked Big Ten, a lot will have to go the ‘Cats’ way in order for that to happen.
Jason Dorow: 19-12 (8-10)
The Vic Law injury certainly hurts this Wildcat squad, but I don’t think it changes the end result for Northwestern. With Law, there was the potential to grab a couple more upsets in Big Ten play and maybe, just maybe, sneak into the tourney. Now, it’s fairly easy to write the ‘Cats into the NIT. Their non-conference slate leaves no room for error, and the home-and-homes with Nebraska, Minnesota and Penn State are the only reason this team could near .500 in conference play. Adding Joey van Zegeren and Aaron Falzon will help Chris Collins make the postseason and take a step forward this season, but it will be several years before the ‘Cats are dancing.
Ari Ross: 19-12 (8-10)
Call me crazy, but before Vic Law went down for the season, I had the ‘Cats at 20-plus wins and in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their history. But with Law’s injury, Dererk Pardon redshirting and Johnnie Vassar still on scholarship, this team’s depth will be tested. Northwestern’s still a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, but getting to 20 wins is going to be tough, unless Falzon can really step it up early on.
In non-conference play, I see one sure loss for the ‘Cats, against North Carolina in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, and two to three more games that should be a tossup. I think they lose either in the second game of the classic to Missouri or Kansas State, or to Colombia and come out of non-conference play with a 11-2 record.
Conference play will be tough for the ‘Cats, and while there’s a few wins against inferior B1G opponents: Rutgers and Penn State, NU will also have trouble will the upper echelon of the Big Ten. But the ‘Cats are bound to pull one upset or two, and I see them beating Wisconsin at home and possibly Iowa on the road.
Northwestern finishes 19-12, good enough for the NIT, but a far cry from what they could have been with Vic Law, as with Olah and Demps graduating, the “Big Dance” becomes ever more elusive.
Michael Stern: 18-13 (8-10)
Northwestern is more athletic and deeper than it was a year ago, but the ‘Cats are still too far behind the top six-seven teams in the Big Ten. The Wildcats will go 10-3 in a breezy non-conference schedule, but only 1-3 against top competition (they’ll lose to either Columbia, DePaul or Virginia Tech). Conference play will also be a challenge for this team, and they’ll get an upset win at some point, but the top teams in this conference are too deep and experienced for a young Northwestern team playing without a starter to crack .500 in league and/or 20 wins overall. That means no NCAA tournament for the ‘Cats this year, but Law’s injury gives Aaron Falzon the playing time to earn conference all-Freshman team honors, and the ‘Cats send Olah and Demps out with an NIT berth.
Josh Burton: 19-12 (9-9)
Thanks to a very weak non-conference schedule and a somewhat-weakened Big Ten, I think Northwestern — even with the tough injury to Vic Law — can put together a decent season, contend for 20 wins and maybe even garner a winning record in conference play. Alex Olah is one of the better all-around centers in the Big Ten, while Tre Demps is a reliable scorer. Also, the continued development from Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey should result in a pretty formidable starting five for the Wildcats. I don’t expect, outside of the North Carolina and Missouri/Kansas State games, the Wildcats to have much trouble in the non-conference schedule and think they can, relatively speaking, hold their own in conference.