#23 Northwestern Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Northwestern Wildcats
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #23
Conference Rank: #4 Big Ten
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Northwestern made history in 2016-2017, reaching their first ever NCAA Tournament. And, once there, they beat Vanderbilt before falling to Gonzaga 79-73. With their top five scorers returning, the hopes are high for the Wildcats heading into the 2017-2018 campaign. Once again the backcourt duo of Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey will lead the way. McIntosh led the squad with 14.8 points and 5.2 assists. His outside shooting can be a little inconsistent, but he is certainly a shooting threat. Lindsey connected on 32.2 percent of his 180 three-pointers. McIntosh is clearly the leader on the floor, but Lindsey has turned into a great scorer who can help take the pressure off McIntosh in that department.
2016-17 Record: 24-12, 10-8
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Chris Collins
Coach Record: 73-60 at Northwestern, 73-60 overall
Who’s Out:
Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn are the only departures. Lumpkin started all 36 games and the 6-6 wing averaged 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds. Lumpkin rarely put up big numbers, but he did everything Coach Chris Collins needed him to do. Taphorn, a 6-7 forward, averaged 4.5 points per game during his senior season and was always a three-point shooting threat off the bench.
Who’s In:
Anthony Gaines is the lone incoming freshman. The 6-4 guard brings toughness to the perimeter and can score by attacking the basket. He should work his way into the regular rotation. Redshirt freshman walk-on Tino Malnati will add another option on the perimeter. Rapolas Ivanauskas redshirted after suffering an injury prior to his freshman campaign. The 6-9 forward is another forward who can stretch the defense.
Who to Watch:
The frontcourt is loaded. Vic Law, an athletic 6-7 forward, averaged 12.3 points per game last season and added 5.8 rebounds. He earned a spot on the Big Ten all-defensive team and should be in for a big junior year. Derek Pardon is no slouch on the defensive end either. The 6-8 junior averaged 1.8 blocks per game on top of his 8.6 points and 8.0 rebounds. Senior Gavin Skelly will once again provide frontcourt depth. He averaged 5.9 points and 3.7 rebounds last year and is another versatile forward who can knock down three-pointers. The return of Aaron Falzon will add another dynamic to the frontcourt this season as well. Falzon missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury, but averaged 8.4 points as a freshman two years ago. Sophomore center Barret Benson will again back up Pardon. With Law’s ability to play at small forward or power forward, Coach Collins can play big more often now that he has more depth in the frontcourt. Either Skelly or Falzon could start at power forward with Law at the three and Pardon manning the center position.
Final Projection:
Northwestern could play smaller too since the backcourt does not lack depth either. Isiah Brown proved to be a capable scorer as a freshman. However, he needs to be more consistent after shooting just 28.4 percent from beyond the arc and 33.2 percent from the floor. Coach Collins has the depth and versatility to mix and match his lineup as necessary. This group has more depth and more experience than they did a year ago. However, it must be remembered that Northwestern was only 10-8 in Big Ten play last year and was close to missing out on the NCAA Tournament. Returning their top five scorers is nice, but competing for a Big Ten title may be a bit of a stretch.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Bryant McIntosh, Senior, Guard, 14.8 points per game
Isiah Brown, Sophomore, Guard, 6.3 points per game
Scottie Lindsey, Senior, Guard, 14.1 points per game
Vic Law, Junior, Forward, 12.3 points per game
Derek Pardon, Junior, Center, 8.6 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.1 (230th in nation, 12th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.5 (35, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.6 (219, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.3 (23, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.1 (202, 9)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.2 (214, 10)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.8 (42, 3)
Rebound Margin: 0.8 (155, 10)
Assists Per Game: 15.0 (72, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.6 (16, 2)