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Film room: A look at why Alex Olah has been struggling

Northwestern's big man has been frustratingly inconsistent this year.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

AIf you watched only three Northwestern basketball games this year-- against Houston Baptist, Georgia Tech, and Mississippi Valley State-- you likely think Alex Olah is one of Northwestern's better offensive players. In those three games, he averaged 19 points and nearly 11 rebounds, and at a solid 7-feet and listed at 270 pounds with a surprisingly soft shooting touch, it's hard to imagine that he's not one of Northwestern's more solid contributors.

But if you've only watched Northwestern's first three Big Ten games, chances are you're frustrated with Olah's lack of production. In the young Big Ten season, the big Romanian is averaging exactly six points and just under five rebounds per game on 33% shooting. When you're seven feet tall and not a terrible shooter, shooting 33% simply isn't going to get it done. Let's take a closer look at why Olah has struggled as of late.

Olah usually gets the ball in isolation post-up plays. He tends to takes a step to gather himself before turning to his right hand, most often for a jump hook while moving across the lane.

The problem is, while Olah is almost always much bigger than the player guarding him, he's one of the slower players in Big Ten. His go-to-move is not quick nor creative, and opposing big men--while undersized--are usually able to beat him to his spots. When this happens, Olah is forced either to improvise, something he's not fond of doing, or force up a wild shot.

Against Michigan State, Northwestern made an effort to get Olah going early, going to him on the first two possessions of the game. However, they came up empty both times. Let's take a look at why.

On the first possession, Tre Demps gives Olah a bounce entry pass. Demps then runs behind Olah to create space for the big man. Olah takes one dribble to his right to go to his signature baby hook, but Michigan State's Gavin Schilling (who measures 6-foot-9, 3 inches shorter than Olah) beats him to the spot, because Olah never once gives the impression he's going to do anything else. As soon as he puts the ball on the floor, the shot he's going to take is pretty clear, which is fine if you are quick enough to elevate faster than your defender- Olah isn't. After Schilling stays with him step for step,  Olah doesn't look to pass or for another move, but has fully committed to the jump hook even though Schilling's position has essentially removed any chance of the shot being even somewhat open. The possession ends in an ugly shot that doesn't draw iron.

During Northwestern's next trip, Olah again sets up shop at the left block and is again guarded by Gavin Schilling.This time, it's Vic Law who gives Olah the entry pass. Olah makes a half-hearted fake like he's going to take a left-handed hook, but once again turns toward the center of the court for, you guessed it, the right hand baby hook. The problem is, Schilling doesn't bite one inch on the fake and simply shuffles his feet to the right and stymies Olah. Schilling keeps verticality, and Olah (never the most prone guy to pass out of the post) awkwardly goes back to his left hand before tossing a second consecutive airball.

While these were only two possessions, it's somewhat of a microcosm of Olah's low-post play, at least so far. He's in love with the right hand baby hook, and if he can't beat his man to his spot (which is more difficult in Big Ten play against more athletic bigs), he doesn't look to past and has yet to prove that he can finish with his left hand with any consistency.

Lastly, Olah has been somewhat turnover prone this season due to a lack of solid fundamentals. Growing up, Olah had to have been the tallest player on every basketball team he played for. You have to believe he's been taught by every coach that, in order to take full advantage of his height, it's crucial to keep the ball high at all times and not bring it down for quick hands to have a chance of knocking the ball loose.

However, it seems as though Olah makes this mistake each and every game he plays. Trailing 57-53 against Michigan State and desperately needing a basket, Northwestern ran a high pick and roll with Bryant McIntosh and Olah. Olah received a pass from McIntosh on the left wing about 15 feet from the basket, put the ball on the floor and attacked Gavin Schililng. After creating some space with a nice body bump, Olah took a step toward the center of the lane looking for a baby hook. But he brings the ball down to waist level, and its promptly stripped by 6-foot-6 Branden Dawson, creating a mismatch in transition resulting in two free throws for Michigan State.

Olah's season is far from lost. He's shown some promising signs of being able to assert himself late in games and has been a solid rebounder all season. But if he wants to get the most out of his seven foot frame, he'll have to develop a more sophisticated post game, in particular mastering additional post moves and being a more willing passer out of the post. Lastly, he needs to clean up his fundamentals, but at this point you have to wonder if it will ever happen. He's been in college for three years now and still brings the ball down to waist level, something big men are warned against starting in middle school.