Non-conference opponent capsule: Northwestern Wildcats

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Northwestern Wildcats
2013-14 Record: 14-19
Previous Year Ratings: Pomeroy (131), Sagarin (128), RPI (126)
How last year ended: L 67-51 to Michigan State in Big Ten Tournament

Who they lose: Drew Crawford – 6’5, 215 lbs G/F averaging 15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.2 apg
James Montgomery III – 6’4, 202 lbs G
Nikola Cerina – 6’9, 235 lbs F averaging 1 ppg, 1.5 rpg
Kale Abrahamson – 6’7, 210 lbs SO F averaging 3.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg (Transferred to Drake)
Aaron Liberman – 6’10, 215 lbs FR F
Chier Ajou – 7’2, 245 lbs FR C (Transferred to Seton Hall)
Mike Turner – 6’8, 222 lbs SO F

Who they gain: Jeremiah Kreisberg – 6’10, 235 lbs F averaging 5.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg (in 2012-2013) (Graduate transfer from Yale, immediately eligible)
Victor Law – 6’7, 185 lbs F from Saint Rita HS in South Holland, IL (4 star, #66 per ESPN, 4 star, #103 per Rivals, 4 star per Scout)
Bryant McIntosh – 6’3, 177 lbs from Greensburg HS in Greensburg, IN (3 star per ESPN, Rivals, Scout)
Gavin Skelly – 6’8, 219 lbs F from Westlake HS in Westlake, OH (3 star per ESPN, Rivals, Scout)
Johnnie Vassar – 6’0, 185 lbs G from JSerra Catholic HS in San Juan Capistrano, CA (3 star per ESPN, Rivals, Scout)
Scott Lindsey – 6’5, 175 lbs G/F from Fenwick HS in Oak Park, IL (3 star per ESPN, Rivals, NR per Scout)

Key Returnees: Jershon Cobb – 6’5, 208 lbs SR G averaging 12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.3 apg
Tre Demps – 6’3, 198 lbs JR G averaging 11 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.2 apg
Alex Olah – 7’0, 270 lbs JR C averaging 9.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg
Dave Sobolewski – 6’1, 180 lbs SR G averaging 5 ppg, 2.4 apg, 2.1 rpg
Sanjay Lumpkin – 6’6, 220 lbs SO G/F averaging 3.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.1 spg
Nathan Taphorn – 6’7, 215 lbs SO F averaging 2.5 ppg, 1 rpg

Preview: Second year coach Chris Collins continues his rebuild of the Northwestern Wildcats , but the 2014-2015 campaign looks to be another uphill climb for the first Coach K assistant that Butler will square off with this season. While Collins did a masterful job with the personnel he was given, guiding the Wildcats to the 14th best defense in the nation, the team struggled mightily on offense.

While I don’t expect Northwestern to set the world on fire this year, I do expect this year to be the first real steps on Chris Collins’ eventual climb with the Wildcats into the NCAA tournament. If Jershon Cobb can manage to stay healthy this season, Northwestern should have a solid, albeit offensively challenged group returning in the back court and on the wing in Tre Demps, Dave Sobolewski and Sanjay Lumpkin. Joining them there will be a trio of 3 star recruits that should only enrich that depth in Bryant McIntosh, Johnnie Vassar and Scott Lindsey.

One position in which the Wildcats don’t have a ton of depth currently is at the 4 position with the exits of Kale Abrahamson and Mike Turner, but my guess is along with Sanjay Lumpkin filling that role, Northwestern fans will very quickly become acclimated to the star of their recruiting class in Victor Law, a 4 star forward from just outside Chicago who really got the ball rolling on the recruiting trail for Chris Collins. Lumpkin may start initially, and as skinny as Law is, they may have him defend the wing, but his athleticism and ability to knock down open shots will likely put him in the lineup sooner rather than later. I’d expect both Law and Gavin Skelly, a skilled 6’8 big to challenge for playing time very quickly at this spot.

Anchoring the middle for the Wildcats will be Alex Olah, a now Junior 7 footer who sported the best offensive rating for Northwestern last season, which unfortunately for the Wildcats was just 101.2. Olah, along with grad transfer Jeremiah Kreisberg are going to present a problem for Butler’s small front line, and while both are big bodies, both can also step out and hit the 3 from time to time. It’ll be interesting to see who and how Butler defends these two, but this will be a key matchup to this one.

Something else to watch may be Alex Barlow and Dave Sobolewski. At Northwestern two years ago, these two really got after each other, and the two are such similar players, it’s not hard to see why they may have gotten under each other’s skin. At this point Barlow has developed into a more complete player, but I doubt Sobolewski has forgotten fouling out of that contest or Barlow’s subsequent reaction to it. Either way, it should be entertaining watching a couple of maximum effort guys facing off with one another.

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