Men’s Basketball: Northwestern looks to meet high expectations after first NCAA tournament appearance

Gavin+Skelly+looks+on.+The+senior+forward+could+see+an+increased+role+this+season+after+the+departures+of+Sanjay+Lumpkin+and+Nathan+Taphorn.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Men’s Basketball: Northwestern looks to meet high expectations after first NCAA tournament appearance

Gavin Skelly looks on. The senior forward could see an increased role this season after the departures of Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn.

Gavin Skelly looks on. The senior forward could see an increased role this season after the departures of Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn.

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Gavin Skelly looks on. The senior forward could see an increased role this season after the departures of Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn.

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Gavin Skelly looks on. The senior forward could see an increased role this season after the departures of Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn.

Jonah Dylan, Sports Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story







Men’s Basketball


The most infamous drought in college basketball is over, and now Northwestern can finally move forward.

A season after making the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, the Wildcats will return four of five starters and open the season ranked No. 19 in the AP preseason poll. Expectations are understandably high, but senior guard Scottie Lindsey said the team is embracing them.

“I expect us to improve,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that played big minutes for us last year, and are motivated to do even better this year. So I think for this year we’re gonna do even better and build off of what we did last year.”

After finishing sixth in the Big Ten last year, NU earned its first-ever NCAA Tournament win against Vanderbilt before falling to eventual national runner-up Gonzaga — in part thanks to a questionable no-call on what appeared to be a clear goaltend by Bulldogs center Zach Collins. But the Cats finally ended the 78-year tournament drought, and now enter the 2017-18 season ranked higher than any Big Ten team save No. 2 Michigan State and No. 15 Minnesota.

To live up to its lofty expectations and compete for a Big Ten title, NU will have to find a way to replace forward Sanjay Lumpkin, who served as co-captain a season ago. Lumpkin was never one to stuff the stat sheet, but he served as the team’s emotional leader and was a defensive stalwart for four years.

“Sanjay was such a warrior for us,” senior guard Bryant McIntosh said. “It’s gonna be a tough void to fill, because he just understood how we ran things. He knew his role and he starred in it.”

Nevertheless, someone will have to take over that role. Senior forward Gavin Skelly, who averaged 5.9 points per game off the bench a season ago, appears to be first in the pecking order. Sophomore forward Aaron Falzon, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, could also figure into the equation, as could redshirt freshman Rapolas Ivanauskas.

Coach Chris Collins, for his part, said the final starting spot was “up for grabs.”

“I tell the players all the time: ‘Put me in a position to make tough decisions,’” he said. “I want them to all play well and put me and my staff in a position to figure out who’s gonna be the best group to start.”

Elsewhere, NU will look to its four returning starters, all of whom were named captains before the season. McIntosh will start alongside Lindsey in the backcourt while junior forward Vic Law and junior center Dererk Pardon will start in the frontcourt. McIntosh and Lindsey both earned All-Big Ten recognition at the end of last season, and Collins said Law could join them this season.

The Cats will also need to replace forward Nathan Taphorn, who led the Big Ten with a ridiculous 47 percent shooting percentage from behind the arc in 2016-17. Falzon, known for his shooting, could help fill Taphorn’s shoes.

“If he’s on the court, somebody’s gotta be tagging him at all times, so it opens up spacing and gives you another offensive weapon out there,” Collins said. “It allows us to do some more creative things on the offensive end.”

NU will play the 2017-18 season at Allstate Arena, far away from the cozy confines of Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston. Despite last season’s successes, Collins said the team is hungry for more.

“The NCAA Tournament was never my endgame,” he said. “It was a big step, something that we needed to do to kind of get to the next level, but the endgame for us is to be a nationally relevant program year in, year out. We’re still not there, we’ve got a ways to go to get there.”

Tim Balk and Cole Paxton contributed reporting.

Email: jonahdylan2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @thejonahdylan

Comments