#126 Northwestern Men's Basketball 2013-2014 Preview

Northwestern Wildcats

2013-2014 Overall Rank: #126
Conference Rank: #10 Big Ten

Northwestern Team Page#126 Northwestern Men's Basketball 2013-2014 PreviewBuy Northwestern Basketball Tickets

Northwestern has a new found hope of finally making the NCAA Tournament with the hiring of Coach Chris Collins. The former Duke assistant has a lot of work to do though and that elusive tournament appearance will not happen in the near future. This season could be better than the last thanks to the return of Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb. Crawford was granted another year of eligibility after missing all but ten games of the 2012-2013 campaign. The 6-5 wing averaged 16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists two years ago and was on his way to putting up similar numbers prior to the injury. Cobb was suspended for the entire season last year. He was a part-time starter back in 2011-2012, but was hampered by injuries. Cobb is a capable shooter and a quality all-around scorer. If he can keep building on where he left off, Cobb should join Crawford as a double digit scorer.

2012-13 Record: 13-19, 4-14
2012-13 Postseason: None
Coach: Chris Collins
Coach Record: 0-0 at Northwestern, 0-0 overall

Who’s Out:
Reggie Hearn really stepped up his game as an upperclassman, starting all 63 games in which he appeared over the last two seasons. Hearn was not expected to do much, but during his senior season he turned into the team’s leading scorer in Crawford’s absence. Alex Marcotullio was another player who picked up the slack in the backcourt. He was never much more than a shooter, but Marcotullio could spark the offense when his three-pointers were falling. The lone loss up front is a big one. Jared Swopshire was the team’s best frontcourt scorer and rebounder. There is now a huge hole at the power forward position that Northwestern will struggle to fill.

Who’s In:
The newcomers will need to provide depth if at all possible. With Nathan Taphorn joining three redshirt freshmen, there is at least a touch of experience among the four freshmen. Sanjay Lumpkin and Taphorn will battle for minutes on the wing. Lumpkin, at 6-6, has the size to be an interesting Big Ten player, but at this point most of his offense will probably come from attacking the basket. If he can mix it up by knocking down some jump shots with consistency, Lumpkin will be an important piece on the Wildcats bench. Taphorn could make an impact if his shot is falling. The frontcourt will rely on Aaron Liberman and Chier Ajou to eat up a few minutes. The 7-2 Ajou has Northwestern fans the most excited. Ajou can get up and down the floor surprisingly well for a player of his size and he will be able to at least play some defense off of the bench.

Who to Watch:
With Dave Sobolewski setting up Crawford and Cobb, the Northwestern starting backcourt is quite good. Sobolewski dished out 4.0 assists per game last year and added 9.8 points. He is a decent shooter and scorer when he needs to be, but Sobolewski is a pass first point guard. Unlike last year, Sobolewski will be able to concentrate on passing and let his teammates worry about the scoring.  Demps did not play the point as a freshman, but he is a capable ball handler. With a nice boost between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Demps could be the main backup for Sobolewski at the point and Cobb at the shooting guard position. He is a good enough shooter and scorer to spend plenty of time off the ball, but the question is whether or not he can run the point. There are not many other options unless Coach Collins wants to go deep down the bench and call on James Montgomery. It is nice to have Sobolewski on the floor as much as possible, but running him wild for 35 minutes a game is a bit too much.

Final Projection:
Northwestern has a new system to learn and some players that do not exactly fit with what Coach Collins wants to do. It is never easy transitioning away from the Princeton offense. But the talent is there on the perimeter to win some games in the Big Ten. If the postseason awaits, which means the NIT, CBI or CIT, then the frontcourt has to improve. Alex Olah was forced into a starting role as a freshman and played pretty well. The seven-footer averaged 6.1 points and 4.1 rebounds. If he and Ajou can managed the five spot, the Wildcats will at least have a big body on the floor at all times. The power forward position is more of a wildcard. Unless Olah turns into a consistent interior scorer, Northwestern will need scoring to come from the four spot. That will fall on Kale Abrahamson and Mike Turner. Abrahamson started a handful of games as a freshman and showed some flashes of scoring prowess. Turner is more versatile and a tougher defender who plays more like a traditional power forward. Yet, finding an interior scoring threat out of that group is unlikely and that is where the rest of the Big Ten will surpass Northwestern.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Dave Sobolewski, Junior, Guard, 9.8 points per game
JerShon Cobb, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Drew Crawford, Senior, Guard, 13.5 points per game
Mike Turner, Sophomore, Forward, 1.9 points per game
Alex Olah, Sophomore, Center, 6.1 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 60.7 (308th in nation, 11th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.7 (100, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 40.1 (308, 11)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.8 (170, 10)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.6 (48, 3)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.1 (159, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.9 (219, 10)
Rebound Margin: -6.8 (340, 12)
Assists Per Game: 14.6 (58, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.7 (11, 5)

Madness 2014 NBA Draft Rankings:
#90 Drew Crawford


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