After an exhibition win against Illinois Springfield, Northwestern Men’s Basketball opens the season on Friday against Mississippi Valley State. The Wildcats finished with a program-record 20 wins last season, but with a tougher schedule and after losing Alex Olah and Tre Demps, Northwestern will have their work cut out for them this year.

WNUR Sports will have the call of the ‘Cats opener against MVSU as part of WNUR’s Sportsathon, but first our broadcasters make their predictions for the ‘Cats season:

Sam Brief (@sambrief): 18-13 (6-12 B1G)

Depth issues at the center position will hold this team back, especially in Big Ten play. But I look for big things in the back court, especially from Bryant McIntosh and Isiah Brown.

Player to Watch: Isiah Brown. He scored 18 points in 23 minutes on 7-for-11 shooting in their exhibition. I know it’s *practice* but I’m intrigued.

Austin Miller (@austin_james906): 13-18 (5-13 B1G)

Replacing volume scoring is so incredibly difficult, and that’s what Northwestern is going to have to do this year. Tre Demps had his ups and downs last year, but the truth is, when Northwestern needed a bucket, Tre was there. Now, I’m not sure where that scoring comes from, and I’m not confident enough in the defense (or the defensive scheme) to predict anything but a disappointing season for the Wildcats.

Player To Watch: Aaron Falzon. If Northwesetern is to improve on last year’s campaign, they’ll need to score. If they’re going to score, at least some if it is going to have to come from Falzon. If Falzon can be more than just a spot-up shooter, there’s a chance the Wildcats make some noise in the Big Ten. If he can’t, it could be a long season on the offensive end of the floor.

Ari Ross (@aross50): 15-16 (6-12 B1G)

Without Demps and Olah, this team is going to struggle, especially as it enters Big Ten play. There plenty of wins on the schedule, but enough to earn an NIT berth? That’s doubtful unless Vic Law, Isiah Brown or someone else can emerge as a go-to scoring option after McIntosh.

Player to Watch: Vic Law. How quickly he’s able to shake of the rust, and return to his end-of-freshman year form, could determine whether this team finds itself playing postseason basketball in March. If Law can emerge as many expected before last seasons injury, an NIT bid may not be out of the question.

Josh Burton (@josh_burton1): 18-13 (8-10 B1G)

I think this is the type of team that’s going to win the games it should, and not win the games it shouldn’t. Other than the nonconference matchups with Texas and Butler, the early-season schedule is pretty easy. The beginning of the conference slate (excluding the game in East Lansing) is also manageable, so the Wildcats’ best chance to go .500 or better in Big Ten play is by making some early statements.

Player to Watch: Vic Law. It’ll be interesting to see how Law responds to a year off due to his shoulder surgery. Without Tre Demps and Alex Olah to rely on offensively, Law will have to step up, especially from three-point range. He needs to be the top-flight player he was recruited to Evanston as.

Matt McHugh (@mattmcsports27): 12-19 (4-14 B1G)

This is a very flawed team that just lost it’s two best players from last season. It could take some time to get used to the new roster, but even then this is a below-average defensive team with limited scoring options on offense. That’s not a great combination, and they could be in for a rough season.

Player to Watch: Dererk Pardon. He looked very raw last year, but showed flashes of some solid talent. He’ll be in for a much bigger role this season, and we’ll have to see if he can work out his kinks and be a solid contributor.

Roger Wu (@rogerwoo221): 18-13 (8-10 B1G)

With junior Bryant McIntosh back and a solid recruiting class featuring Isiah Brown and Rapolas Ivanauskas, there are plenty of reasons why Northwestern will, once again, have a winning season. Expect the wildcats to advance to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament with a couple wild upsets.

Player to watch: Aaron Falzon. Coming off a proficient freshman season, during which he averaged 8.4 points per game with a solid 35.4% three point shooting, Falzon is set to fill the space left by the graduation of Tre Demps. It will be interesting to see how Falzon has improved during this past offseason.

Amit Mallik (@amitkmallik): 13-18 (9-9 B1G)

The ‘Cats go 15-18 in the regular season, before reeling off five straight wins to take home the Big Ten Conference Tournament and an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The ‘Cats do the impossible and six five straight in the NCAA Tournament, making the final four and winning the national championship in Glendale, Ariz over Kentucky or Villanova in an all Wildcat final, to of course, end the season with a shocking 24-18 record.

Player to Watch: Bryant McIntosh. #BMac4TheDime

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