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JerShon Cobb Suspended: What it Means for Northwestern

by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)

Northwestern announced today that junior guard JerShon Cobb has been suspended for the entire 2012-2013 season for "violations of team policy." Here's the statement from Bill Carmody:

"There are standards that each student-athlete is expected to uphold. JerShon has our complete support as he works to fulfill those expectations and we look forward to having him rejoin the program in a full capacity in the future."

The suspension stems from multiple violations, and Teddy Greenstein reported it's not a legal issue. Cobb was out for much of last season with a hip injury, but he came back at the end of the year and showed off his potential. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, he was NU's best player down the stretch last season and he was arguably the most talented guard on the team. On a team now loaded with forwards and centers, Cobb figured to give the Wildcats a consistent presence in the backcourt. With Cobb out, the backcourt takes a big blow in depth and talent. It also takes a big blow defensively, as that was arguably Cobb's best attribute. He still had some work to do with his shot after sitting out for a lot of the year, but he was the team's best defender.

Cobb wasn't a sure-starter this year — he would have had to fight for playing time with Reggie Hearn — but he was the most talented guard in the rotation and had a chance to be a major contributor after the glimpse we saw at the end of last season. There is now very little depth at the position, and three players will likely rotate playing time there:

Reggie Hearn: Hearn appears to be the obvious starter now that Cobb is gone. He was a stater last season, but now that NU has more depth in the frontcourt and he won't need to play the "3" position, he was likely to battle Cobb for playing time at the 2, his most natural fit. He's experience and a solid player, who should fill in nicely. He doesn't have the upside Cobb had, but he's consistent, nonetheless.

Tre Demps: Demps was injured last year and redshirted, so he fell off the radar a little bit, but he's back in action this year and should see time at point guard and shooting guard. He likely won't win the starting job at point guard from Dave Sobolewski, but he will see time handling the ball. With Cobb out, he'll likely play the 2 more than previously planned.

Alex Marcotullio: Marcotullio isn't a starting player, and he has limited capabilities, but he's a good three-point shooter and came up with some big shots for NU last year. With Demps' return — and a deeper team, in general — he likely wasn't slated for as many minutes this year as he had last year, but since Cobb can't go, he will certainly hear his number called throughout the year.

Cobb's suspension certainly hurt in that NU loses its most talented guard and best defender in the backcourt. However, is the sky falling in Evanston? No.

Remember, the Wildcats survived without Cobb last year, and they get back a very capable player in Demps. The defense on the perimeter won't be as great as it would have been, but offensively, NU doesn't lose that much. A more talented frontcourt will help NU alleviate some of its defensive struggles from last year, and versatile players Jared Swopshire and Drew Crawford will provide offensive playmaking abilities from everywhere on the floor.

This team is still a better one than it was last year — that due, in large part, to the improved frontcourt — but in what figures to be a hard-fought Big Ten season, Cobb's absence will certainly hurt from a depth, playmaking and defensive standpoint.