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2014-15 Recap/2015-16 Look Ahead: Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern 2014-15 Record: 15-17, 6-12 in the Big Ten

Key Players Lost: JerShon Cobb, Dave Sobolewski, Johnnie Vassar, Nick Segura and Jeremiah Kreisberg

Key Players Coming Back: Tre Demps, Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law, Scottie Lindsey, Alex Olah, Nathan Taphorn, Sanjay Lumpkin and Gavin Skelly

New Recruits/Transfers: Johan Van Zegeren (grad transfer from Virginia Tech), Jordan Ash, Aaron Falzon and Dererk Pardon

2014-15 Recap:

Chris Collins’ second year with the Wildcats was much like his first in many ways. Northwestern had just one more win in the 2014-15 season than they did in the 2013-14 season.

However, with Collins starting to mold the Wildcats with his own recruits and the team having a strong finish down the stretch, there is a palpable buzz in Evanston these days.

Northwestern’s season started out in ho-hum fashion, as they went 9-4 in the non-conference portion of their season, while beating no one of significance. They would open Big Ten play by beating Rutgers on the road. From there, though, the Wildcats hit some major adversity.

The Wildcats would then go on to lose 10 games in a row. If you saw some of these games, though, you saw Northwestern compete hard, as they lost so many heart-breakers and close games (see at Michigan State, vs. Illinois, at Michigan, vs. Ohio State, at Maryland). The bounces just simply did not go the Wildcats’ way.

But midway through the season, the team started to come together and some of those bounces started to go their way, as they broke through with a win against Iowa in overtime on February 15. Northwestern would then proceed to go on a four-game winning streak, which included another win over an NCAA team in Indiana.

In all, Northwestern closed out the season winning five out of their last seven conference games. Their season ultimately ended with a loss to Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Individually, three Wildcats averaged double figures in scoring with Tre Demps averaging 12.5 points per game, Alex Olah averaging 11.7 points per game and freshman guard Bryan McIntosh averaging 11.4 points per game to go with 4.7 assists per game. For his efforts, McIntosh was named to the all-Big Ten freshman team with Demps also being tabbed with honorable mention honors.

Sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh could be poised for a big year as he tries to get Northwestern to postseason play next season.

2015-16 Look Ahead:

With Demps, Olah and McIntosh all coming back, and with the way the Wildcats finished, Collins has the Wildcats geared to make a run at postseason play this year. Considering the way the Big Ten is constructed this year, Northwestern making their first ever appearance in the NCAA may be a tad too ambitious, though. Making the NIT may be more up their alley.

McIntosh is a fine guard, and although Demps and Olah are the grizzled vets on the team, this team will go as far as McIntosh goes as he matures into a complete player. He is poised for a big year.

Also, watch for super athlete Vic Law to blossom in his sophomore year. He was fourth on the Wildcats in scoring (7.0 ppg) while also chipping in 4.7 rebounds per game. His versatility is something to monitor for this year.

Additionally, Collins brings in another solid class highlighted by four-star power forward Aaron Falzon from Newton, Massachusetts. He’ll bolster the frontcourt, which was a weakness for the Wildcats last season, as Northwestern finished 13th in the Big Ten in rebounding. Virginia Tech grad transfer Johan Van Zegeren, who averaged 9.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last season will help in that regard, too.

So, the pieces are clearly starting to come together for Collins and Northwestern, as they are closing in on their goal to one day make the NCAA Tournament. It just may not come in the 2015-16 season, but the Wildcats are clearly on the verge and deserve your respect.

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