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The Curious Case of Kale Abrahamson

Earlier this year, when it looked like Kale Abrahamson's minutes might be starting on a downward trend, the sophomore forward had a talk with coach Chris Collins.

“I had a meeting with Collins and just obviously told him I wanted to play more and that I was unhappy,” Abrahamson said. “I think I heard him say that he would be unhappy if I wasn’t unhappy for not playing. I was happy to hear that and that he understands my position… We kind of had a heart-to-heart, kind of just let it all out. He’s not much for messing around a topic he really just wants you to get to the point and tell him what you think and just be a man about it.”

That quote, came after Abrahamson's 17-minute, 8-point performance against Illinois State, so it appeared that the "heart-to-heart" had worked, at least for the time being. He played double-digit minutes the next two games, before dropping off again. Over the course of the season, his minutes have followed the same pattern, and as these statistics from KenPom.com demonstrate, his playing time has become as erratic as Northwestern's offense.

Game Minutes Off. Rating % Possessions
Eastern Illinois

3

-

-

Stanford

5

-

-

Illinois State

17

116

19%

UIC

15

94

13%

IUPUI

11

178

11%

Gardner Webb

7

-

-

Missouri

12

0

13%

UCLA

30

124

22%

NC State

10

116

15%

Western Michigan

8

-

-

MVSU

7

-

-

Brown

23

106

24%

Looking at that chart, it's tough to come up with any logical explanation. You can subscribe to KenPom to see some deeper statistics (offensive rating can seem a bit inflated if he didn't play many minutes), but these ones mostly tell the story. It's not like Abrahamson only had success against bad opponents — some of his best games came against teams in the upper echelon of NU's schedule. And poor performances didn't necessarily hurt his playing time in the next game, just as good performances didn't earn him more playing time in the next contest. Some of it probably came down to match-ups, but for the most part, it's one confusing chart.

The obvious question is whether Abrahamson deserves the playing time. He's not in contention for a starting job, but when he's been in, he's actually done a good job — with the obvious exceptions of the Missouri and, to an extent, UIC games. NU could do a lot worse than Abrahamson's 11-point, 9-rebound performance against Brown, and his 19-point performance against UCLA, which included 5 three pointers.

When it comes to Abrahamson's playing time, we're not going to try to figure it out. Because nobody — not even the NU coaching staff — seems to know when they want to use him. But if he can play more games like he did against Brown, he might be in line for a more straightforward playing time plan, this time without a heart to heart.

Statted Up

- Dave Sobolewski had another rough outing against Brown. He had 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting in 39 minutes. The 7 assists and 6 rebounds were a nice touch, but the shooting and the 5 turnovers made for a bad combination and gave him an offensive rating of just 49. The numbers suggest that for Sobolewski to warrant a starting spot, he has to focus on being a more efficient distributor.

- Sanjay Lumpkin fouled out with 0 points in 16 minutes — he took two shots, both threes — last night. He has the ability to be a good defender and possibly NU's best rebounder, but he has to be more consistent.

- Drew Crawford finished with 40 minutes, 24 points, 11 rebounds and a 30 percent usage rate. That has to be the norm for NU to not finish last in the Big Ten this year.