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Inside NU Hoops Roundtable: Who is the Wildcats' best player?

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

We've pulled together a group of our writers for what we hope to be a somewhat regular feature: an Inside NU Hoops Roundtable. Three questions, three rapid fire answers from each of us:

1. Clearly Northwestern isn't in the same ballpark as Wisconsin, but how much of Sunday's game was about the Badgers being good, and how much was about Northwestern being bad? In other words, if Northwestern had played as well as it's capable of, how much closer could that game have been?

Josh Rosenblat: Wisconsin is absolutely the worst Big Ten matchup for Northwestern. The Badgers' interior depth, size, skill and versatility would be too much for Northwestern to handle on any night. Clearly, the Wildcats' best game would have made the game closer than it was, but not enough to make Wisconsin worry in the slightest.

Jason Dorow: I thought this was a pretty average showing from Northwestern. The offense got off to a slow start, per usual, and picked it up somewhat in the second half. NU's perimeter defense was poor, but Collins said they planned on giving Wisconsin the three. The Badgers took advantage and knocked down 7-10 from deep to start the game, which speaks for itself. Northwestern's "A game" would've brought the final margin down to single digits, at best.

Kevin Dukovic: This game was more about Wisconsin being good. The Badgers shot a higher percentage from three point range (48 percent) than the Wildcats shot from the field (39 percent). I'm not sure if a single team in the country, maybe outside Kentucky, could beat the Badgers when they're shooting that well from deep. If Northwestern had played closer to its potential (like it did against Butler), the Wildcats still would have lost by 20.

Henry Bushnell: I'm not going to go so far as to say Northwestern could've won the game. But I do think Northwestern made this far too easy for Wisconsin. The Wildcats were at their best last year on the defensive end of the floor when they got physical and made the game ugly. I didn't see much of that Sunday. There were no hands in passing lanes, there was no bodying up drivers to disrupt their rhythm. Maybe Northwestern tried to do this and the Badgers were just too good, but I think a lot more could've been done to disrupt Wisconsin's offense.

Josh Burton: Considering the talent and experience that Wisconsin has, as compared to the relative lack of both for Northwestern, the result of the game wasn't too surprising. Anytime a team loses a game by 20 or more points, it obviously could have played better but especially with a basically dormant Alex Olah, there was no way for Northwestern to compete with the likes of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Nigel Hayes, etc. Even in a best-case scenario for Northwestern, it would have still been a double-digit loss.

Zach Pereles: The Badgers are simply a better team in all aspects of the game. They defend better thanks to Bo Ryan's nearly impenetrable defensive scheme, they are a much better team as far as shooting goes (.495% to .425%), and they're more experienced. If Northwestern had everything go right, meaning a quick start that ignited the home crowd (which was outnumbered by Wisconsin fans), improbably high three-point shooting percentages, and an off game by either Dekker or Kaminsky, the Wildcats probably could have hung around for 30-35 minutes before running out of gas. No matter what, Wisconsin would have won this game by at least 8-10 points.

2 .What lineup (group of five players) would you like to see more of?

Rosenblat: Bryant McIntosh, Tre Demps, Scottie Lindsey, Sanjay Lumpkin, Gavin Skelly. Over the last five games, this lineup has played in 3.4 percent of Northwestern's minutes. Skelly works pretty well with McIntosh in the pick-and-roll with his ability to come down the lane on the roll and finish at the rim. Lumpkin, along with Skelly, give some front line toughness. Lindsey and Demps are capable floor spacers and talented offensive players. They are both pretty decent wing defenders as well.

Dorow: McIntosh, Law, Lindsey, Lumpkin and Olah. This lineup provides a good mix offensively. Olah and McIntosh work the pick-and-roll really well. Lindsey may be NU's best pure shooter, and he should get open looks off Olah post-ups and kick-outs from drives by Law. Lindsey and Law aren't the best defenders on the wing, but they have two rim protectors in Olah and Lumpkin, who can help on the drive.

Dukovic: McIntosh, Demps, Law, Lindsey and Olah. I think Lindsey has earned more minutes in his limited playing time and Law needs to be out there to gain the experience. I would also like to see more of Johnnie Vassar and Nathan Taphorn.

Bushnell: McIntosh, Cobb, Lindsey, Lumpkin and Olah. I'm not saying Demps isn't one of Northwestern's five best players, but I think this lineup gives Northwestern ideal balance and spacing. Cobb's minutes will be limited, which is unfortunate, but with McIntosh running the show, I like this group of four around him -- Cobb as a shooter and secondary ball-handler, Lindsey as another guy that stretches the floor, Lumpkin as a hybrid-four who can cut or spot up, and Olah as an integral piece inside.

Burton: McIntosh, Demps, Lumpkin, Taphorn and Olah. Northwestern's main problem is its lack of instant scoring options and this lineup provides the most ability to put the ball in the hoop. McIntosh has proven, even as a freshman, that he can get to the hoop for a layup/floater or settle for a jumper and knock it down with consistency. Demps has always been able to create his own shots while Lumpkin's offensive game is a work in progress but has shown flashes this year, especially at the basket. Also, Taphorn has been one of Chris Collins' most efficient scorers, surprisingly, thus far.

Pereles: McIntosh, Demps, Lumpkin, Taphorn and Olah. With this lineup, Northwestern has two reliable ball handlers in McIntosh and Demps. At times, Demps has run point even with McIntosh in the game. Both of these players can get into the lane, and that's when they can either score or pass out to Lumpkin or Taphorn. Taphorn leads the team in three point percentage and Lumpkin is fifth. Lumpkin also helps make up for what is lost defensively when Taphorn plays. Olah makes it simply because of his size and defensive rebounding ability.

3. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't really matter, but I feel like this is an interesting question: Who is Northwestern's all-around best player? I'm not sure there's a clear frontrunner.

Rosenblat: There's this fear of finally calling Tre Demps Northwestern's best player probably because he shoots a lot and he's not especially efficient. But there's no question he's who the team looks to when a bucket is needed. There's no question that his energy never wavers despite playing basically the entire game. He plays hard on defense and has turned into a perimeter defender who can hold his own against bigger players, despite his more slight frame.

Dorow: At the beginning of the season, I thought Alex Olah would be this team's best player, and I think there are stretches when that has been true. But on the whole, I'm going to agree with Josh, it's Tre Demps. When the offense is in a drought, he's the go-to guy. His shooting numbers are still mediocre (38.6% from the floor, 27.6% from deep), but he rarely turns the ball over and can attract double teams on the drive. Defensively, Demps has been better than Olah and McIntosh too.

Dukovic: To me it's between Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh. I'll give the slight edge to Demps because of how valuable he is as a scorer. Imagine where NU would be this year without Demps, who was massive down the stretch of games early in the season. He continues to be the only Wildcat who can consistently create his own shot in an offense that is otherwise incapable of consistently creating good looks and scoring the ball with ease.

Bushnell: It's definitely not Demps for me. First of all, there probably should be an asterisk here, because when Cobb is healthy, it's him. But he's not, so I'll take Olah actually. If we're strictly thinking about offense, it's between Demps and McIntosh, but Olah's defensive presence is really undervalued. While McIntosh struggles on the defensive end, Olah is knocking on the door of the country's top 100 in block percentage. Also, the big man's struggles have been blown out of proportion. In reality, he's been more efficient offensively this year than last year despite higher usage rates, and his rebounding has improved significantly. Sure, his game has a few gaping holes, but I still think he's NU's best player.

Burton: I'll go with Olah, even though I should be much more confident about that choice than I actually am. He has the size and ability to be a consistent double-double guy but has yet to blossom into that type of player for a bunch of reasons. Still, he's Northwestern's defensive rock underneath and is a decent finisher when given the ball while in good post-up position. Demps may be the best scorer but considering all aspects of the game, Olah's the guy.

Pereles: I've got to go with Demps. When you look at shooting percentages, it's hard to argue for him, but when I think of best player, I think of the guy who gives you the best chance to win a game. Demps is Northwestern's best individual scorer and his defense, if not spectacular, is at the very least serviceable. When Northwestern needs a basket, the ball goes to him. (Note: Demps is shooting 50% from the field in the last three games while averaging 18.7 ppg)