Balk: Northwestern will take step back this year

Tim Balk, Managing Editor

Bringing sophomore Vic Law back could be a gamechanger for a defense that never seemed to disrupt opponents’ offenses last winter.

Bryant McIntosh could explode as a junior, putting up 20-point nights regularly.

And sophomore big man Dererk Pardon could make a big jump, crashing boards and getting more comfortable on the defensive end.

It all could happen. Heck, Northwestern could even make its first NCAA Tournament ever. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

The defensive issues that plagued the Wildcats last season likely will only be amplified by the departures of Alex Olah and graduate transfer Joey van Zegeren. And, while this team should shoot the ball decently, carving out a new offensive identity for a team with only one proven shot creator (McIntosh) and without a conventional post scorer could prove a year-long project.

Junior Scottie Lindsey, sophomore Aaron Falzon and freshman Isiah Brown will all be asked to make huge steps as offensive players. Expecting them all to smoothly make the jump from role players to consistent producers is a tall ask.

Asking Pardon to both stay out of foul trouble and produce offensively is even steeper. Pardon’s a solid player and will do some great things as a sophomore. But he’s not Charles Barkley. He can’t do it alone in the paint.

Ultimately, NU fans expecting improvement from last year may be expecting too much too soon from the team’s young guns.

These Cats will be an exciting outfit to watch. But Big Ten teams are going to pick their defense apart and kill them with second chance points.

It’s possible the squad takes a huge step forward and the Cats manage 20 wins again despite a significantly more challenging schedule than a year ago.

Possible. Certainly not probable.

Tim Balk is a Medill junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.