While Northwestern's 10-5 record is more than respectable, the season hasn't gone as well as the coaches or fans would have hoped for. When you look at the team's schedule, there's no really quality win, and Northwestern struggled mightily against teams like Elon and North Florida.
A good way to better understand the struggles is to go through each and every player and evaluate their performance. At the end of the day, it's the players who go out and win basketball games. No matter how good a game plan Collins and staff might draw up, if the players can't execute, a win (especially in the Big Ten) isn't likely.
We'll go through the players by total minutes played -- the guy who has played the most minutes will be graded first, and the guy who has played the least will be graded last:
McIntosh started the season playing some great basketball, which probably raised the expectations on the young point guard way higher than they should have been. Collins loves "B-Mac" and seems to think he can be one of the better young players in the Big Ten, and McIntosh leads the team in minutes at 32.5 per contest.
He looked a bit overwhelmed against Wisconsin and their size and length, but that's to be expected when a freshman ball-handler faces the no. 4 team in the country. The offense still flows noticeably better when McIntosh is on the floor, and he's proven to be a better shooter than most expected him to be, shooting a more than respectable 43 percent on three-pointers.
It's unreasonable to expect McIntosh to look awesome against a team like Wisconsin, but these next few contests will give us a better idea as to where he ranks among Big Ten point guards. Look for McIntosh to improve steadily throughout the year as he gains more experience. He'll need to take better care of the basketball (16 turnovers in his last 4 games) for Northwestern to have any chance at an upset on Sunday at Michigan State.
Demps was thrown into the starting lineup when it was clear that Jershon Cobb couldn't play as many minutes as planned due to lingering injuries, and the junior has performed reasonably well this season. He's Northwestern's most polished offensive player and is undoubtedly where the team looks when they need a bucket.
While he leads the team in scoring, Demps still takes way too many bad shots for my taste and doesn't make enough of those bad shots to justify them. His go-to move seems to be a long two-pointer off the dribble, perhaps the most inefficient shot in basketball.
I doubt Collins expected Demps to have to shoulder such a heavy load on the offensive end, but with Cobb's health (or lack thereof) and the less than stellar starts for both Alex Olah and Vic Law, Demps is probably the team's top option. To his credit, it's no coincidence he's shooting just 38.6 percent. This offense doesn't generate a ton of open looks and far too many of his shots come at the end of the shot clock.
If Demps could use his quickness and ability to get to his spots to set up opportunities for his teammates more often, the offense would flow better and he'd likely be able to create some open looks for his teammates.
After starting the season with surprisingly good offensive games -- 15 and 13 points in two straight -- Lumpkin has regressed to the mean and is back to playing the defense and hustle roll that he's so accustomed to.
Lumpkin plays hard each and every night, often guarding players much bigger than he is. He's been an opportunist on offense, shooting 58% overall and 38% from behind the arc. When he's gotten open looks this year, he hasn't hesitated to take them.
Lumpkin is never going to be a star for this team, but he's been a solid role player and is an important factor in Northwestern's success going forward.
Alex Olah has been a frustrating player to watch and analyze this season. In some games, he looks to be Northwestern's best offensive offense by far -- in the Georgia Tech game, he took over in the second half to almost complete a sizable comeback, and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. In the season opener, he used his size advantage to tally 21 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks.
But then he has games like his last three, where he has a total of 11 points and has only shot the ball 12 times. For whatever reason, Northwestern has large stretches of time where they don't look to the 7-footer despite the fact that he's bigger and stronger than 99 percent of the players guarding him.
Some of that is on Olah, as well. He doesn't demand the ball as much as he should, and his limited low-post game makes him less efficient when he does get the ball.
If Northwestern wants to be able to compete night in and night out in the Big Ten, Olah will have to give the team more.
Vic Law has been the biggest disappointment for Northwestern so far this season. Coming in as a highly touted recruit, most expected Law to immediately be one of the team's better players and impact games right away.
Quite simply, that hasn't been the case. Law has shown flashes of the athleticism that so many raved about, but he seems genuinely uncomfortable on the offensive end. While his body type and skill set suggest that he should be attacking the lane, his go to shot is a pull-up long two. He's shooting 36 percent overall and only 20 percent from behind the three-point line.
Sure, Law will still likely blossom into one of Northwestern's better players and should have a nice career at NU. But at least so far, he hasn't justified his high ranking as a recruit. It's on the coaching staff to find better ways to use Law on offense to get more out of his talent.
It's tough to criticize JerShon Cobb. He's done everything he can to get healthy and it seems his body just won't cooperate. We predicted that Cobb would lead Northwestern in scoring, but that was predicated on him playing around 30 minutes a game and his body being near 100 percent.
Neither of those have happened. He's averaging 21 minutes a game and is shooting a putrid 30 percent from the field. Cobb's limited quickness and mobility means he's not able to create his own shot as well as he used to, and he's probably not getting the lift he'd like to on his jumper.
It's been a difficult year to say the least for the senior, but he's accepted his new role with grace and seems to be one of the team's emotional leaders. Hopefully the training staff can figure out a way to get the most possible out of Cobb's banged up body so he can contribute more steadily.
Lindsey has been a pleasant surprise this season. While most expected McIntosh and Law to play good minutes in their freshman year, no one really knew what to expect from Lindsey.
While he's only playing 12 minutes a game, Lindsey provides a nice offensive spark when he comes into games. He's a good three-point shooter at 44 percent, and is shooting a solid 45 percent overall.
When Gavin Skelly came to Northwestern, Chris Collins described his body as "Big Ten ready," and it seems he was correct. Skelly is strong as an ox and has done well when asked to defend players much taller than he is due to his strength.
His offensive game is limited, but he's not put into games to produce offensively. He's brought in to play tough defense and to rebound, and he's done exactly that. Don't expect anything special from Skelly, but he's been a tough player who willingly does the dirty work, and that's a valuable addition to any team.
Taphorn came into the season excited about the 20 pounds he managed to add, and it has certainly paid off for the sophomore. In the limited minutes he has played, Taphorn has proven himself to be the team's most efficient offensive player (granted, it's a small sample size) and is shooting an impressive 47 percent from the three-point line.
Many of us believe Taphorn should play more often. He's a three-point threat whose newly-added strength means that while he's not the best defensive player, he's not going to get bullied down low as he did last year.
It's clear that Sobolewski's skill set was a much better fit in Bill Carmody's offense than in Chris Collins' one. After averaging 35 (!!) minutes in his freshman and sophomore years, Sobolewski is down to 7 minutes per game this season.
That must be tough to swallow for a guy who was once one of the leaders of this team. Northwestern's offense is pretty pick and roll heavy, and Sobolewski isn't good at getting into the paint. His biggest asset is his three-point shooting, but he's not a great athlete, meaning he's best in catch and shoot situations. This offense just doesn't produce enough open looks for a guy like Sobolewski to be effective.
No one really knew what to expect from Kreisberg, a graduate student transfer from Yale who sat out last season due to injury.
He comes in most often when Alex Olah is in foul trouble and the opponent has a player too big for Skelly or Taphorn to guard. He hasn't done much on the offensive end, scoring only 7 points on the season, 4 of which came in Sunday's blowout loss to Wisconsin.
Johnnie Vassar and Nick Segura
I haven't seen enough from Vassar, a freshman point guard who some expected to redshirt, and Nick Segura, a walk-on who's played three minutes total, to give a fair assessment of their play.