Now that the Cubs have won the World Series, will Chicago's Big Ten team become the city's most lovable losers? Maybe, but then someone in Chicago would have to actually realize they had a Big Ten Team. Northwestern has finally given hope to whoever does care, that they can make it to post season play. I am on board with this team in so far as they are an improving team and program, but this is not an NCAA team. They are pretty much a 8 man rotation, and they are still an undersized group, while not as much as in the past.
This team runs a 3 man rotation in the backcourt, with juniors McIntosh and Lindsey both playing over 30 minutes a game. Promising freshman Brown comes off the bench to give them a break. Brown is a bit of a quicker guard who is 3rd on the team in FTA despite only playing 16 minutes a game. Lindsey has good size for a 2 guard and scores in a variety of ways. He is also 2nd on the team in rebounding and assists. He has taken a jump in year 3 filling the role Demps played last year. This is McIntosh's team, as it has been pretty much since he stepped on the floor as a freshman. He is a creative scorer and distributor and is a fun player to watch. If there was any doubt whose team this was it was answered against Notre Dame. With less than a minute to go NW was down one and McIntosh was a horrific 2-17 on the day. There was no doubt the shot was going to be McIntosh's and he made it. NW lost the game, but it was a solid effort against a good team, and clear to all that McIntosh is the best player on the team.
The front court looks different with the graduation of long time center Olah, and the return of Vic Law. Olah has been replaced by sophomore Pardon, who is a smaller player but more athletic. He is more of a shot blocking threat and a solid rebounder, but he does not pose the post up threat they had with Olah. Vic law is back and leads the team in scoring, which is partly driven by shooting an unsustainable 70% from 3 on 20 attempts. Even with a reversion to the mean on that, Law is an offensive force as he also leads the team in FTA. Lumpkin is the 5th starter and is a defensive player. He gives them rebounding and defense while playing undersized at the 4 spot. Skelly and Taphorn get regular minutes off the bench to rest the other 3, but neither offers much. Both are more comfortable shooting a 3 than a layup, and are there for rest, fouls, and rebounding.
Northwestern is lacking in size and athleticism which makes the disappearance of Aaron Falzon quite puzzling. He was a major contributor as a true freshman averaging 25 minutes a game, but after spending the first few games getting minimal minutes he has been a DNP in the last 3. I don't follow NW enough to know if there is an injury, or if he is just in the doghouse. If he has fallen out of the rotation based on skill it would be a bit of a setback for a program that was bragging about him as their highest rated recruit in a long time just last year. 6'8 athletes that can shoot don't fall in Northwestern's lap very often, so if he doesn't pan out it could be trouble for them.
This team has made strides and they are no longer embarrassing to lose to. They have a rough schedule this year playing IU and Purdue 2x, and against UW, MSU, and OSU on the road only. If they get one win in those 7 games it would be a victory. I think they win a lot of games vs the rest of the league and finish 8-10, same as last year.