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Northwestern basketball predictions for 2013-2014

InsideNU basketball writers Kevin Trahan, Josh Rosenblat and Chris Johnson make their predictions for the 2013-14 basketball season.

Record: 17-14 (6-12)

NCAA tournament? No.

Biggest win: Jan. 2 vs. Wisconsin

Bold Prediction: Sanjay Lumpkin will make the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.

When projecting Northwestern’s 2013-2014 season, there is little evidence that points to how well this crop of players will play together. For example, only three out of Northwestern’s eight projected rotation players played throughout the entire season last year (Alex Olah, Tre Demps and Dave Sobolewski). The other five either missed a significant part of last season (Nikola Cerina), redshirted (Drew Crawford, Sanjay Lumpkin and JerShon Cobb) or was still a senior in high school (Nate Taphorn). In conjunction with a new head coach, there will undoubtedly be some major growing pains for Northwestern this season. During the physical grind of the Big Ten schedule, Northwestern’s lack of depth on the front line could prove to be fatal. But with the return of Crawford, Lumpkin and Cobb and the addition of Taphorn, Northwestern boasts a solid group of perimeter-oriented wings. Basically, the volatility of this team caused me to go back and forth on their prediction. Overall, I projected Northwestern to finish with a fairly respectable 17 wins because I really like how this team projects on the defensive end. Cobb and Lumpkin are both long, athletic wings that are quick enough to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter scorers without fouling. - Josh Rosenblat (@JMRosenblat)

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Record: 16-15 (5-13)

NCAA Tournament? No.

Biggest win: Feb 22/23 vs. Indiana

Bold prediction: Drew Crawford will be one of the top three scorers in the Big Ten

The last time Crawford was healthy for an entire season (2011-12), he averaged 16.1 points per game, the fifth-highest scoring average in the Big Ten. His teammate, senior John Shurna, led the conference in scoring that year at 19.8 points per game. Unfortunately for Northwestern, Shurna is gone. For Drew Crawford’s chances of ranking among the Big Ten’s best scorers this season, this is an encouraging development. Now healthy after undergoing shoulder surgery last season, Crawford will be Northwestern’s primary scoring option. He will be asked to create off the dribble, hit jump shots and score in the low post. Crawford is Northwestern’s best offensive player by a pretty big margin, and his teammates – and more importantly, his coach, realize this. When Northwestern needs a basket, getting Crawford the ball will be a huge priority. Northwestern needs Crawford to score a lot of points; its offense runs the risk of bogging down, or completely stagnating, if Crawford isn't scoring. Crawford will get his opportunities, and if he converts a high percentage of them, finishing the season as one of the Big Ten’s top-three scorers is a reasonable goal. For what it’s worth, here are a few players Crawford might have to beat out: Penn State’s Tim Frazier, Minnesota’s Andre Hollins, Iowa’s Devyn Marble, Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross, Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Michigan's Mitch McGary and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker. - Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)

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Record: 16-15 (6-12)

NCAA tournament? No.

Biggest win: Feb 22/23 vs. Indiana

Bold Prediction: NU will head into 2014-15 as a sleeper to make the NCAA Tournament

This may seem like a strange bold prediction, since it's discussing next season, not this season. However, the success that the Wildcats build this year — at least, the flashes they show — will have a lot of people talking by the end of the season. Even with the coaching turnover, this is one of the most talented NU teams ever, and a lot of players on this team have bright futures. JerShon Cobb and Sanjay Lumpkin are both strong defenders — something NU has lacked for quite some time — in addition to being strong offensive players. Alex Olah looks poised to take a step up, while Nate Taphorn has surprised everyone with his sudden ascent to the "sixth man" role. This team is going to have some ups and downs, but when you consider the young talent, combined with star Drew Crawford, it also has the ability to pull some upsets. Those wins will stick with people, who will see a very talented recruiting class joining an already talented team. If NU can get some big late-season wins to inspire confidence — at home against Indiana, maybe? — it can use this season as a building block to head into Chris Collins' second year with a lot of momentum. - Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)