by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
College basketball season arrives in Evanston today, so before the season tips off, here are our final predictions and pieces of analysis.
Breakout player: Jared Swopshire, GS, Forward
It's not often that you can peg a graduate transfer as a "breakout" player, but Swopshire gets a fresh start after transferring to Northwestern from Louisville, and he figures to be a major player in NU's NCAA Tournament hopes. There is some skepticism about Swopshire, considering he had injury problems and averaged 3.3 points and 13.1 minutes per game for Louisville last year. However, he skill set if perfect for the Princeton offense and he should thrive in an offense that values his versatility. Swopshire was stuck on the perimeter a lot last year and coach Bill Carmody said earlier this year that that's not his skill set. Swopshire can shoot from anywhere and can drive the lane, which is a rare for someone his size. Defensively, he'll be a big boost and will be expected to contribute a lot of rebounding help that the Wildcats didn't have last year. Expect Swopshire to do a little bit of everything, but most importantly, provide help in the paint on both offense and defense.
Star freshman: Alex Olah, FR, Center
Usually, freshmen who aren't top recruits take time to get used to the college game before being thrown into the action. Not Alex Olah. The 7-foot freshman will be expected to contribute immediately, particularly by giving Northwestern a big body down low on both offense and defense. The Wildcats struggled to get production from their centers last year, even resorting to putting 6-foot-9 forward John Shurna in that spot at times. Olah could struggle defensively with quicker centers, but he's a good option for inside scoring and will help NU run its offense much better than it could last year. Carmody seemed optimistic this summer, telling InsideNU, "We'll actually have some scoring inside."
Under-the-radar player: Sanjay Lumpkin, FR, Guard/Forward
Northwestern will have plenty of talent at the guard/forward combo positions of the Princeton offense, with Swopshire and Drew Crawford holding that role. However, Lumpkin has picked up the offense quickly and will be a contributor off the bench this year. He was praised by both Carmody and Crawford this offseason, and Carmody was impressed after the exhibition win against UChicago, saying, "Sanjay, I think he’s going to be pretty good. He usually does the right thing; it doesn’t always work out right. The decision-making is good, but he doesn’t always execute it. He’s going to help us.” The execution will come in time, but the fact that the decision-making skills won't be a huge drop-off from Crawford or Swopshire makes Lumpkin a solid option off the bench.
- PG: Dave Sobolewski, So
- SG: Reggie Heran, SR
- SF: Drew Crawford, SR
- PF: Jared Swopshire, GS
- C: Alex Olah, FR
Key reserves: Sanjay Lumpkin (FR, G/F), Tre Demps (RS FR, G), Nikola Cerina (RS JR, F), Mike Turner (RS FR, C), Alex Marcotullio (SR, G)