It's almost basketball season! (Never mind the fact that Northwestern has already played Texas-Pan American. I mean, you probably already weren't minding it, but whatever.) Sippin' on Purple attempts to figure out what will happen in a series of posts about NU's upcoming season.
After last year, Michael "Juice" Thompson graduated, and is now playing professionally in Germany. Big deal, you might say! The point guard isn't that big a deal in the Princeton Offense, plus, he's short, plus, he's just one player! Well, not so much: Thompson played 92.2 percent of our minutes - the 12th highest figure in the country. He drained a career-low - yup, career-low - 39.3 percent of his threes last year, and rarely turned the ball over while leading the team in assists. And arguably, his most important asset - being the team's leader - doesn't even show up on Kenpom.
So will Northwestern adapt to the loss of Juice successfully? SoP staff answers after the jump, have your say in the comments.
How effectively will Northwestern replace Juice Thompson?
Inconsistently. I like that Demps and Sobolewski didn't look completely clueless against Robert Morris, but as freshmen they will have their moments. Hopefully not too many and not too costly.
I was encouraged by what I saw from Sobolewski and Demps in the exhibition, even if it wasn't against a high caliber team. Sobo, in particular, looked like he had a pretty firm grasp of the offense. Combined with Marcotullio, I think our nominal point guard position will be in good hands. Where NU will miss Thompson most is the bailout play with under five seconds on the shot clock. Juice has the poise and confidence that you would expect of a four-year starter who had the gumption to self-declare his jump shot "100% pure." But this is what the nonconference season is for, and if there's a silver lining to the soft schedule, it'll allow the younger guys lots of opportunities to get into the flow of college basketball and give the team a chance to find its identity.
They certainly won't be able to replace his specific skill set; neither Demps or Sobolewski is anywhere near where Thompson was last year. That's not a knock on either of those guys, Thompson was really good.
As for replacing his late in the shot clock scoring, there are a few options there. Hopefully a healthy Shurna can do a better job of getting his own shot, and I was mildly encoouraged by what I saw from Drew Crawford against UTPA. I was hoping for a breakout year from JerShon Cobb, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen as he still hasn't recovered from off-season surgery, meaning even when he does come back he won't have had the summer to work on his game.
Well, yikes. I won't judge Tre Demps and David Sobolewski's ability to contribute to Northwestern either this year or later in their careers - they're both froshes - but I highly doubt either will be able to replicate Juice's production: first off, after four years, the guy knew the offense like the cliche of his hand, giving him a mesmerizing ability to find cutters that critical split-second faster than they could react. He could get the ball across half-court, which hopefully won't be a problem with a Big Ten basketball team, but sometimes looks like it. But most importantly, the guy was a broken play outlet due to his dead-eye shooting ability. From what we've seen of Demps and Sobo, this is not a skill set they share. John Shurna and Alex Marcotullio will have to assume the role of the dude willing to nail a awkward shot or drive one-on-three when the play clock is running down, and I don't think either is as as good. Juice carried Northwestern on his undersized back down the stretch last year, through one round of the Big Ten Tournament and two of the NIT, and although there's no way to definitively say John Shurna can't do that, he hasn't yet. The loss of Juice doesn't cripple the Wildcats, but he won't be "replaced". His absence will hurt.
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