Despite bringing back only six players from last season, Northwestern’s starting line-up will likely look very familiar. Drew Crawford was the bridge between the Bill Carmody and Chris Collins eras, and with him gone, the Wildcats hope someone else can step up and fill his shoes.
While Northwestern performed well last season — relative to the program’s history — time will tell if their new starting five will be able to continue the momentum.
G – Bryant McIntosh, Freshman
The point guard position is definitely the team’s biggest variable, as the freshman McIntosh will most likely start alongside four players who have logged substantial playing time. Last year’s team started two guards and two hybrid-forwards, so having other players who can handle the ball should alleviate the pressure on McIntosh.
Senior Dave Sobolewski, in all honesty, should be starting, but his inconsistent play and general inability to mesh with Collins’ coaching style has relegated him to the bench. Sobolewski shot 26.2% from the floor and averaged just 5 points per game in 27 games. Take a look at what McIntosh (and the other freshmen) brings to the team here.
G – Tre Demps, RS Junior
Demps had a stretch during January where he was absolutely clutch, helping the Wildcats score upsets against teams such as Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. His performances were made possible by being the team’s x-factor off the bench. Now that his role has increased, teams will spend more time designing ways to stop him.
How will Demps respond to being the team’s second offensive option? If the redshirt junior can use his experience to his advantage, he should be fine. This remains the biggest question regarding Demps.
G – JerShon Cobb, RS Senior
If the team is to have any chance of being successful, Cobb is going to have to be the team’s anchor. He has had an up-and-down tenure with the Wildcats but is now the team’s go-to player. He was second in scoring last season with 12.2 ppg, providing offense when needed. However, many of the things previously said about Demps could also apply to Cobb. Regardless, he brings experience to the starting five and should be the team’s leader on the court.
G/F – Sanjay Lumpkin, RS Sophomore
Though his impact doesn’t usually stand out on the stats sheet, Lumpkin acts as the team’s glue. He is a player who can do a little bit of everything and will be called on to carry a bigger load this season. Even if he still does not impress people with his numbers, he will be an example to the younger players. Lumpkin had the luxury of working closely with Crawford last season. Let’s see if he can bestow some of that knowledge on the five Wildcat freshmen.
C Alex Olah, Junior
There are big expectations in Evanston regarding Olah. The 7-foot junior has shown signs of being a formidable presence inside but has to break through to the upper tier of Big Ten big men.
He still has quite a way to go — he averaged just 5.2 rebounds per game and led the team in rebounding only nine times last season. In his defense, he really played well for Northwestern toward the end of the season. He found consistency in the post and even had a few games where he hit multiple three-pointers. If Olah can add that to his improving defensive skill set, he can be the team’s breakout player next season.