Balk: This looks like the year for Northwestern

Tim Balk, Managing Editor

Before the season, I was downright bearish on Northwestern’s prospects. The last time we debated here in the sports pages, I called for the Wildcats to take a step back from their 20-win success of 2015-16. I didn’t think NU could overcome its lack of size or find a way to stop Big Ten opponents.

A couple months later, I’m flipping my tune. These Cats ain’t bad.

Not only did they impress with consistent efforts in non-conference play, they’ve shown some serious guts since Big Ten play opened. The Cats notched a blowout win at Penn State a couple days after Christmas and, more impressively, pushed past Nebraska on the road Sunday.

The biggest reason for NU’s success is junior guard Scottie Lindsey, a role player last year who has emerged as a consistent and potent offensive option. Lindsey paces the Cats with 15.6 points per game and combines with high-jumping, hot-shooting sophomore forward Vic Law (who missed last season due to injury) and mainstay junior guard Bryant McIntosh to form a trio of tough scorers.

NU now has Big Ten-level offensive firepower, and it has shown. Plus, McIntosh still hasn’t found a rhythm this year — the Cats’ star point guard is shooting 36 percent from the field and 26 percent from deep.

Of course, none of that changes the fact that they remain mightily undersized. But NU has managed to overcome its deficiency in the paint with solid perimeter defense and team rebounding. Sophomore center Dererk Pardon has also played well.

The smart money right now has to be on NU making the NCAA Tournament. The Cats sit at 13-4 and 2-2 in conference with a favorable schedule remaining. Outside of Purdue and Wisconsin, the Big Ten is in an enfeebled state this year. If the Cats continue to rack up wins, and steal just one game against one of those two teams, they’ll dance in March.

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.