The Daily Northwestern

Men’s Basketball: Temper expectations for Collins’ second year

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

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Vic Law is the real deal.

Listed at 6 feet 7 inches and 185 pounds, the freshman forward stands as the heir apparent to the graduated Drew Crawford and will almost certainly be worth the price of admission.

But the rest of coach Chris Collins’ inaugural recruiting class? Don’t get too excited (at least not yet).

According to ESPN, Northwestern had the No. 31 recruiting class in 2014. That’s a good ranking and a major accomplishment for a historically bad program, but the harsh reality is that the Wildcats’ recruits are middling when compared to the rest of the Big Ten.

Conference foes Ohio State, Maryland, Indiana, Purdue and Michigan all rank higher than NU, while Michigan State trails at No. 32. Nominally that’s exalted company, but powerhouses like the Buckeyes, Wolverines and Spartans already have incredible talent bases to plug their freshmen into. The cupboard is pretty bare for the Cats and will need several years of restocking.

This season’s recruiting class is a great first step, but of the six freshmen on the roster, Law is the only one likely to start or see serious playing time, at least at the outset of the year.

Assuming health, the starting five for NU will probably be senior guards Dave Sobolewski and JerShon Cobb in the back court and junior center Alex Olah, sophomore forward Sanjay Lumpkin and Law in the front court. Junior guard Tre Demps will reprise his role as a scorer off the bench, and sophomore forward Nathan Taphorn will partner with senior transfer forward Jeremiah Kreisberg to provide important relief minutes.

Freshmen not named Law will have to earn a spot in the rotation.

Bryant McIntosh will probably be the first to see time on the court. The 6-foot-3 combo guard has the talent to take over for Sobolewski if the veteran struggles as he did last year and the height and length to play with Cobb or Demps in the back court if Collins wants to run with a bigger, more defense-oriented lineup.

Forward Gavin Skelly is also likely to get into the vertically challenged Cats lineup simply because of his height. At 6-foot-8, he has the size and potential to develop into the power forward that NU so sorely lacked last season. Lone big-man Olah needs all the help he can get under the basket and will also need plenty of rest, so look for Collins to take advantage of his whole stable of tall players in one way or another.

The remaining freshmen, guard Johnnie Vassar and forwards Scottie Lindsey and Nick Segura, look to be more long-term projects. Vassar slots as the point guard of the future but doesn’t yet have a clear path to playing time. Lindsey and Segura, meanwhile, are simply raw players who Collins won’t yet trust with major roles on the court.

Make no mistake, NU is definitely on the rise. But even if it improves on last season, this team is still going to be bad. Don’t hope for the NCAA Tournament and feel lucky if the final result is simply a winning record.

For now, low expectations are the key to an enjoyable season filled with watching players who will be exciting even when they aren’t winning.

Email: robertpillote2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @BobbyPillote

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