Svirnovskiy: Northwestern doesn’t have to be the little guy


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

A.J. Turner, Miller Kopp and Anthony Gaines play in the intrasquad scrimmage. The three players will look to have big roles on this year’s team.

Greg Svirnovskiy, Assistant Sports Editor

I want to have high expectations for Northwestern. They’ll win 21 games this year, steal a winter break home game from top-ranked Michigan State, beat down on the little guys like Merrimack and Norfolk State.

It could happen, right?

But then I thought about it. And then it hit me. The Wildcats might be the little guys.

NU enters this year ranked by many as the worst team in the Big Ten. But the underlying facts paint an even bleaker picture.

Last season, the Cats finished with a 13-19 record, winning just four of its 20 Big Ten matchups. Dropping three of five against Illinois and Rutgers NU lost 10 straight games in the middle of the year, not tasting victory for the entire month of February. After finally breaking that skid with a win against Ohio State on March 6, the team went on to lose their final two games of the season.

Last year’s top three scorers, Vic Law, Dererk Pardon and Ryan Taylor, have all graduated. Role players Aaron Falzon and Barret Benson have also left the program, transferring to smaller schools in search of bigger roles. This mass exodus of veterans has left Northwestern without a whopping 63.4 percent of its offensive production from last year.


It’s a new year though. Fall optimism, that feeling you get before the ball is dropped and when every squad in the country can say they’re undefeated, has replaced the disappointment of last spring.

So there’s hope. For the Cats to succeed this year, they need highly touted returning sophomores Pete Nance and Miller Kopp to step up in a big way. Nance, whose first year at Northwestern was marred by a bout of mononucleosis, averaged only 2.9 points per game last year. He’s back,looks buff and is ready to go this year.

The squad has also welcomed freshmen Boo Buie and Robbie Beran. Buie’s 18 points in last week’s exhibition matchup against Quincy were second best on the team. On the other hand, Beran struggled, with five personal fouls committed while scoring just two points. Still, with just ten scholarship players on the team, he figures to be a key piece for Chris Collins.

The Cats will play against Merrimack onFriday in their season opener. By all accounts, it should be a win. What remains to be seen, however, is how the following five games will go, and the five after that. And the rest of the season.

They’ll struggle and they’ll grow. It’s a young team with few expectations. They’ll need to earn victories against smaller schools and fight like hell against top opposition. That way, while they may be the little guys, they won’t play like them.

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Twitter: @Gsvirnovskiy