2014-2015 ITH season preview: Northwestern Wildcats

  • 09/19/2014 8:33 am in

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Northwestern Wildcats.

Welsh-Ryan Arena has a new high-definition, 23-foot wide video scoreboard.

It will have little to do with Northwestern’s on-court play, but for those witness to the archaic, somewhat laughable screen that still hung from the rafters just last season, it’s symbolic of the program’s shift from Bill Carmody to Chris Collins: Modernity is the new rule.

Freshman Vic Law, a local product from St. Rita, arrives as the program’s top recruit in two decades (Evan Eschmeyer, 1993) — and just maybe its best ever. Law figures to draw the starting wing spot for Collins and be a top contributor from the get-go. Northwestern loses veteran Drew Crawford (15.7 PPG) off a team with limited bodies last season, but JerShon Cobb (redshirt senior, 12.2 PPG) and Tre Demps (reshirt junior, 11.0 PPG) return. They were the only other double-digit scorers for Collins during the 2013-2014 campaign.

Down low, Alex Olah is back for his junior season. At 7-foot and 265 pounds, he’s a bruiser and tough cover. Olah made great strides last season, developing more of an offensive game and improving his field goal percentage (41.5 percent to 50.9 percent). Olah also became a more respectable shooter from the charity stripe (58.3 percent to 68.0 percent) and proved a modest threat from distance (30.3 percent) for a player his size. He’ll be essential for the Wildcats during the physical Big Ten season on both ends of the court (block percentage of 6.3).

Redshirt sophomore Sanaj Lumpkin — who started 32 of 33 games for the Wildcats a season ago — will help out with the boards up front, while senior transfer Jeremiah Kreisberg (Yale) figures to give Collins some depth on the block.

Senior Dave Sobolewski would be appear to be the incumbent at point guard, but a rough junior season, one that included a concussion, leaves that in doubt. Collins welcomes five other freshmen to campus (Bryant McIntosh, Johnnie Vassar, Scottie Lindsey, Gavin Skelly and Nick Segura, a walk-on) in addition to the talented Law. It’s possible either Vassar or McIntosh — the two best of the bunch — could supplant the Benet Academy product in the backcourt.

Bottom Line: While Northwestern has some talent (and Collins surprised for a bit in the Big Ten last season with limited bodies thanks to a stout defense), it’s likely not going to be enough to make the Wildcats serious contenders in the conference. Which means the team’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearence is probably not on its way this season. That said, this freshmen class could be the group that finally punches through to the tourney if Collins can mold them. But it’s going to take some time.

Quotable: “Vic should be a guy who gets 10-12 points, 7-8 rebounds, 4-5 assists, a couple of steals and a couple of blocks. He can affect the game in a lot of different ways. Maybe he can become a go-to scorer when he gets older. He’ll have a key role right away. He’s different than a lot of the guys we have.” — Collins on Law, Chicago Tribune, Aug. 6

Previously: Rutgers, Penn State

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

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  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Evan Eschmeyer 1993…Has it been that long? Wow

  • SCHoosier

    Glad Crawford is gone..Hoosiers couldn’t handle him. Olah and Temps return ..and they were no picnic either for the Hoosier defense. If Collins can’t make this program a success…nobody can.

  • Bryce Kepner

    Ive seen Bryant McIntosh play a few times and the kid is legit. Great point great from the great state of IN

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    “10-12 points, 7-8 rebounds, 4-5 assists, a couple of steals and a couple of blocks”

    Wow, that’d be quite the stat line for a freshman! Not sure if we’ll have anybody with those diverse stats; our best bet will be Troy. The assists and steals seem unlikely, but the points, rebounds, and blocks should be there given his athletic ability.

  • Hoosier Pride

    A NW team without Crawford is going to be weird. Seems like that guy was Eschmeyer’s roomate in 93!

  • Miamihoosier

    I always believed Northwestern stayed in games under Carmody bc of their wacky offensive and defensive styles. Young Big Ten teams always struggled figuring it out. With Collins more traditional approach, I think we will start to see Northwestern slide further down the ladder in the league. It’s great they got Law, but you can’t tell me they are going to compete against teams bringing guys at Victor Law’s talent level, off the bench (i.e. OSU, MSU, Mich, IU, Ill, Maryland). Their AD was smart to keep Carmody as long as he did, it kept them respectable. It doesn’t matter if Chris Collins was coach K’s assistant, or John Wooden’s, you aren’t getting the top guys in to that school.

  • HoosierGrampy

    Agree that Bill Carmody built teams which were always difficult to figure out–if only he had been able to recruit enough talent to make his system work. I think you may be underestimating what Chris Collins brings to the table with respect to his own youth and the fact that he sat at the knee of one of college ball’s best coaches for about 100 years. The longer we keep our $3 million man, the less surprised I’ll be to see Groce, Chambers, Miles, McCaffery and Collins’s programs become more relevant in the B1G than IU…not to mention Turgeon and Jordan once they adjust to the physicality of league play…largely due to the reluctance of the “stripes” to call fouls. (That’s another story, though.)
    Sometimes, teams with a plethora of 4-5 star ballers don’t seem to “win the big games” because there just aren’t enough balls in play–I was in Lexington, KY, for 25 years and they managed to win 4 titles (78-96-98- 2012) despite having some really good talent on the rosters. Granted, I’d rather take my chances with 13 ESPN 5-stars than a team built from players at the YMCA, but success is not guaranteed or assured even w/mega talents.

  • Snookafly

    I think it’s actually “Sanjay Lumpkin.” I remember because it’s one of the funniest names I’ve ever heard in my life.

  • Bryce Kepner

    I dont think you are giving enough credit to those Big Ten coaches. I was impressed with what theyve done so far without much talent.

  • HoosierGrampy

    I think you may have misunderstood what I said about them. Let me reiterate a little differently: I will not be surprised to see the programs run by Groce, Chambers, Miles, McCaffery, Collins, Turgeon and Jordan become more relevant in the B1G than IU if we keep the $3 million man at the helm. The latter two may need 1-2 years to mentally adjust to the physicality of play in the league–due in large part to the reluctance of referees to blow the whistle.

  • mark

    Kid of strange that you say that, since a good portion of this article is devoted to the fact that they did just get a “top guy” to come to their school and he is expected to be really good. Add to that a couple proven perimeter players and an improving big man, and you’ve got a decent team. And I for one was very impressed by Collins’ coaching last year. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that is this year’s relatively weak B10, they’ll be a bubble team. Yep, you heard it here 1st (gulp)

  • Miamihoosier

    Victor Law is not a “top guy.” He is for Northwestern though. The schools I mentioned regularly attract McDonald’s All-Americans. Different playing field. I’m sure Collin’s team’s will always play hard, and smart, but if the teams above also play hard and smart, the Wildcats will always lose.

  • Bryce Kepner

    No I understand what you mean. I think Groce, Miles, and McCaffery are really good coaches. Groce and Miles have shown that they can get some great Juco players and some decent recruits. McCaffery has done well with what he’s got at Iowa. Collins and Chambers impressed me cause Northwestern and Penn St actually challenged a lot of teams last year. I do agree about the last two, we will have to see. It really is nothing new that Iowa and Illinois compete heavily with IU. I know not a lot of people want Crean around anymore and it’s a completely different topic. But right now, there is nothing we can do about it. He is our coach. Something else interesting to note was that Groce has said that he wanted the IU job in 08 when they hired Crean. He is a IU grad.

  • Bryce Kepner

    Victor Law was the ranked 66th in the class. I would say that’s pretty darn good. 10th highest recruit coming into the Big Ten.

  • HoosierGrampy

    It seemed like Jeff Horner and Brian Cardinal hung around for about a decade or more as well…

  • HoosierGrampy

    Hiring TC was not a bad decision, and I hope he will actually exceed some of the media’s expectations of our team this year.

  • Bryce Kepner

    I don’t know who’s expectations with be harder to exceed, the media or the part of the fan base that is so anti- Crean. Im convinced they want him to fail now

  • ForeverIU

    Sounds like a character from the British Raj. Sanjay is much better than Sanaj. The latter sounds like the name of a new age spa. LOL!

  • ForeverIU

    Congrats to IUFB! Maybe a boost for IUFB will help IUBB.

  • Guyton25

    I finally feel relieved for thinking over the past few years that if I watch every IUFB game, eventually It’ll pay off. Great win today.

  • HoosierGrampy

    It won’t be very difficult to exceed what the media expects from this year’s team. Personally, I don’t think very many of the regular posters on here actually WANT CTC to fail so much as we fear/feel that he is not a coach who is capable of leading IU back to being regarded as one of the nation’s elite college programs. Maybe this is the year that he will quiet the “Nay-Sayers”…maybe.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Jess Settles – IOWA – I swear he played more years of college basketball than any other player in NCAA history!

  • Taz

    McIntosh is gonna surprise a lot of people this year in the Big Ten. Very smart player. Crean should have offered him a scholly IMO.

  • mark

    So I guess in your opinion 10-12 ppg, 7-8 rpg, 4-5 apg is not “at top guy”, or maybe you know way more than Coach Collins …. which is shy you’re a major Div 1 head coach, right?

  • HoosierGrampy

    How could I have forgotten him! He always seemed to have a career night whenever he played us.

  • HoosierFan08

    well…not quite as long as that because as I remember he played 6 yrs. He had to yrs of medical redshirt, so he was playing in like ’99 I think…