By: Bo Bowen
The answer to that question: not quite yet. Here’s why.
We’re just past the halfway point in the regular season. The Wildcats have amassed a 10-7 record (1-3 in conference) and sit at 11th in the Big Ten standings. With a tough remaining conference schedule remaining, the odds of this team getting a tournament bid appear slimmer and slimmer.
So what’s been going wrong? In addition to their shoddy resume, this team just feels different than last year’s. The bench this season has been much less productive than last year’s. Blame it on a younger bench and poor shooting, but in a conference as good as the Big Ten, teams need solid bench play. Another possible culprit: rebounding. Northwestern ranks 279th in the country with 33.7 rebounds per game. Utilizing Dererk Pardon better needs to be at the top of Chris Collins’s agenda.
Bryant McIntosh has been the biggest contributor to the Wildcat offense. He’s averaging 13.6 points per game and 5.4 assists per game. The offense goes as he does, so getting the ball in his hands has to be a priority. Scottie Lindsey leads the team in scoring but has been hot and cold throughout this season. Poor shooting has been this team’s achilles heel this year. As a team Northwestern is shooting just over 43 percent (36 percent from 3) but has been wildly inconsistent scoring this season. Ball movement to produce more open looks is desperately needed on offense.
You can blame these problems on the change in venue, but that can only get you so far. Most of this team’s troubles start on offense. We know that Northwestern is better at stopping than scoring. But to hang with some of the bigger programs in the Big Ten, you need to be able to score with them.
After last year’s tournament run, this year’s start has been disappointing. There’s still time for this team to turn it around. A lot of basketball remains in this season. However, with the lack of any quality wins out of conference, Northwestern needs to have a sterling conference record to make a strong case for tournament selection. Starting with a win against Reggie Lynch-less Minnesota at home could serve as a turning point for this team. Overall, it’s still too early to panic in Evanston, but the window for a tournament bid in 2018 is closing.