Picked to finish last in the Big Ten by the media following a disappointing 13-19 campaign in 2018-19, optimism isn’t all the high regarding Northwestern Men’s Basketball this season. The graduations of Vic Law and Dererk Pardon clearly leave this team in somewhat of a rebuild, but the hope is that an influx of young talent can lay the foundation for the future. Things get started for the ‘Cats Friday night when they take on D1 newcomer Merrimack.
How does our staff see the season playing out?
Ben Krieger (@TheBenKrieger): 12-18 (5-15, 13th in Big Ten)
It’s sad to see the program with just one player remaining from the magical NCAA Tournament team of 2016-17, but the games will still be more fun to watch than they were last year. Graduating Vic Law and Dererk Pardon probably prevents the team from winning too many more games than a season ago, but bringing in two legitimate point guards should allow the Wildcats to at least execute the fundamentals of Chris Collins’ offense. The Pat Spencer signing may have been a bit of a gimmick, but he has been impressive in preseason action and is at the very least a dynamic athlete and leader. Add in the sky-high potential of Pete Nance and possible growth from the rest of Northwestern’s young roster, and there could be plenty to enjoy and look forward to despite difficult game-by-game results.
Kevin Sweeney @CBB_Central): 14-16 (6-14 Big Ten, 13th)
I was ready to pick Northwestern last before I saw Nebraska lose by 19 at home to UC Riverside. Yikes!
The goal in my mind for this team is to show promise. If the likes of Miller Kopp, Pete Nance, Boo Buie, and Robbie Beran look like future pieces that can lead you to an NCAA Tournament, this season is a win no matter how many or few wins wind up in the standings. I compare it somewhat to the 2014-15 Northwestern team with older guys like Tre Demps and Alex Olah (Anthony Gaines and AJ Turner) leading with young pieces like Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law, and Scottie Lindsey showing promise. The goal is to find a young core that can grow up together, and hopefully Collins can work his magic with a few top recruits for the 2020 and 2021 classes. Showing some promise this season would go a long way in selling a true elite recruit like Max Christie (2021) that Northwestern can be the place for him.
Henry Ettinger (@Henry_Ettinger): 10-20 (4-16 B1G, 13th)
Reasons to be optimistic on this year’s team? They might actually have players to run the offense. Boo Buie and Pat Spencer led the team in scoring against Quincy in the team’s exhibition tune-up on Halloween. Miller Kopp and Pete Nance were forced into roles that they were perhaps not quite ready for as first-year players, but as sophomores, the highly touted recruits have a better shot of demonstrating why they were thought so highly of coming out of high school.
Reasons to be pessimistic? Pretty much the same things. This team lost its top three scorers from last season in Vic Law, Dererk Pardon and Ryan Taylor. It;s counting on Buie, a freshman, and Spencer, a graduate transfer coming off four years of NCAA lacrosse, to run its offense. It’s relying on Kopp and Nance, two players who averaged less than 5 points a game last season, to pick up a lot of the slack that Law, Pardon and Taylor left behind.
There’s just too many question marks in a conference that is usually not very forgiving of inexperience, so I lean toward pessimism despite the potential for more fireworks this season.
Eric Rynston-Lobel (@EricR_L): 11-19 (4-16 B1G,14th)
This will likely be the third-straight losing season for Chris Collins and company. But of the three, this year’s performance will be the least disappointing. My expectations are minimal, but the significant influx of young talent on to the roster this year could make this an exciting team to watch. I’m not sure if there’s a good way to go 4-16 in the Big Ten, but if there is, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2019-2020 men’s team pulls that off.
Parker Johnson (@ParkerKJohnson): 11-19 (4-16 B1G, 14th)
There really are not a lot of reasons to be excited coming into this men’s basketball season. Like, there are things to be interested in — Pat Spencer’s transition from lacrosse to basketball, Pete Nance’s development, Miller Kopp and A.J. Turner trying to become lead scorers — but none of them are particularly exciting. All I can say is that this season is really going to make Northwestern fans appreciate what they had in Vic Law and often-underutilized Dererk Pardon. I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe in a team that has Tino Malnati as one of two captains and the only senior. This season will go down to the very last day … to determine who finishes last between NU and Rutgers.
Drew Myers: 14-16 (7-13 B1G, 10th)
Unfortunately, I think that this will be another tough year. With the loss of three seniors who were the top three scorers last year, freshmenn from last year will need to fill the role as well as veterans like A.J. Turner and Anthony Gaines. However, that does not mean that Northwestern cannot improve from its struggling 2018-2019 season. Expect to see Pete Nance in a lot of games and don’t be surprised to see some freshmen make an impact, such as Boo Buie who was the second-ranked recruit from New York when he committed to Northwestern. Therefore, while I don’t expect this season to bring about massive improvement, I think there is certainly potential for Northwestern to have a much better season from last year.