Rollins: It’s time for the seniors to take a seat

Rollins: It’s time for the seniors to take a seat

Khadrice Rollins, Managing Editor

Men’s Basketball

The allure that surrounded Northwestern early in the season is fading as the Wildcats struggle to match the level of play that propelled them to match the best start in school history. With the most daunting part of the schedule still ahead and NU clinging to hopes of making its first NCAA Tournament, it’s time for coach Chris Collins to make a necessary change.

Going into the season, the Cats were expecting to lean heavily on seniors Tre Demps and Alex Olah. The duo were the top two scorers last season, and played well in big games. But this year is a different story.

Demps is struggling in every facet of the game, becoming a liability. Olah is trying to come back from a stress fracture in his foot, but history has shown 7-footers rarely make strong returns from foot injuries. Because of these major setbacks, and the improvement of the younger players, it is time to move Demps and Olah to the bench.

This season, sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh has shown he can be the Cats’ top offensive option. McIntosh’s 15.7 points and 7.1 assists per game lead the team and rank ninth and first in the Big Ten, respectively. But as long as McIntosh is forced to share the backcourt with Demps, who leads the conference in minutes per game, he will not get the opportunity to take full control of this team.

Moving Demps to the bench and decreasing his minutes would open the door for sophomore guard Scottie Lindsey to take his spot in the starting lineup and allow junior forward Nathan Taphorn to become a regular in the rotation. Taphorn and Lindsey are first and second for the Cats’ in 3-point percentage this year and it would make sense for a team that relies so heavily on the deep ball to play its two best shooters more.

Demps is shooting a team-worst 37.5 percent from the field and his 27.7 percent mark from beyond the arc is the worst of any Wildcat with more than 5 attempts. But despite shooting so poorly, Demps leads the team in shot attempts and is second in 3-point attempts.

As long as Demps continues to take shots away from players who have proven to be more reliable shooters, he should not be in the starting lineup. Instead of handcuffing McIntosh with his poor shot selection, Demps could spell McIntosh and give Collins a proven scorer off the bench. Along with that, playing against other teams’ backups might be just what Demps needs to get out of his season-long slump.

With Olah, it’s less about him, and more about the production freshman center Dererk Pardon has provided. Since being inserted into the lineup following Olah’s injury, Pardon has proven to be a reliable rebounder and a strong finisher around the rim. Olah still has a better and more versatile offensive skill set, but his poor rebounding combined with the question marks surrounding his foot make him the perfect complementary big man off the bench.

Pardon has shown glimpses of being able to carry the load as the primary big man, particularly in his 28-point, 12-rebound performance in the conference opener against Nebraska. As Pardon continues to find his game, Olah could relieve him at the 5 and allow the Cats to have no drop-off inside, while also teaming the more offensively skilled Olah with bench players who have not proven to be as reliable scoring options.

But by moving Olah and Demps to the bench, Collins would not only improve this year’s team, but also, and more importantly, help future teams. McIntosh, Lindsey, Pardon and Taphorn all have one more year together, and McIntosh, Lindsey and Pardon have two more years together. The faster these guys become acquainted with each other’s games, the better it is for the Cats.

Tre Demps and Alex Olah have given NU three good seasons, but year four has not met expectations for either. It is time for Collins to acknowledge the future is now and force his seniors to take a seat.

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Twitter: @KhadriceRollins