Heading into the 2015 season, Northwestern features one of its deepest teams in years. While head coach Chris Collins has said his preference would be to play only eight or nine players, he acknowledges that he might have to coach this Northwestern team a lot like Iowa's Fran McCaffery has coached in recent years, using a deep bench. At least at the onset, few players -- other than the Wildcats' established starters -- have appeared to separate themselves. Thus, we are going in-depth on each of Northwestern's scholarship players, providing insight into each players' potential role.
Top recruit Aaron Falzon is next:
A four-star recruit out of Newton, Massachusetts and the top rated player in NU's freshman class, Falzon is one of the biggest recruits Chris Collins has gotten in his three years as Northwestern head coach. While Falzon had ten offers in total (Marquette, Penn State, Georgia, Boston College) he eventually narrowed it down to Harvard and Northwestern. He decided on Northwestern after visiting campus and watching the football team upset Wisconsin last October. In his senior season at Northfield Mount Hermon High School, Falzon averaged 17.7 points per game on 43 percent shooting and 6.1 rebounds per contest.
Falzon can absolutely shoot the lights out from downtown. His shooting ability at 6-foot-8 is what made him such a sought-after recruit, and it is far and away his biggest strength. Just look at some of this praise from Chris Collins:
"When he comes in, he's a mature player for his age and I think he'll be a big part of what we're doing and the guys are already knowing that if he's open you've got to find him. Because he'll be one of the more dangerous from the 3-point range in our league even as a freshman."
Aside from his shooting prowess, Falzon also has size at 6-foot-8, 215 pounds, and is athletic enough to run the floor and finish around the rim.
Similar to many other Big Ten freshmen, Falzon will have some troubles once the team hits conference play, mostly on the defensive end. It's here that Falzon's game is still a question mark. While he's not small, he'll have trouble matching up with bigger power forwards if he is indeed playing the four. He'll be up against players like Nigel Hayes and Troy Williams, and it might very well be a baptism by fire for the young freshman. Rebounding could also be an issue, as Falzon's frame is still relatively slight.
Due to how refined his offensive game is, Falzon will be able to contribute right away for the Wildcats. Chris Collins said as much on Tuesday at Northwestern basketball media day. As for his actual role on this team, a rich man's Nate Taphorn seems like a safe bet. The thing is, there's not much Taphorn does that Falzon doesn't do better. So Falzon could come off the bench, spread the floor, and hit threes. He could even start, and be a 25-minute-per-game guy right away. Efficiency and the quality of his defense will govern the way in which his role evolves throughout the season.
What to Expect
With Falzon you can at least expect one thing: Three-pointers. He might be the best pure shooter on the team. The thing to watch is whether or not Falzon can diversify his offensive game to be one of Northwestern's most consistent offensive threats. If he can't as a freshman, he'll be more of a role player. If he can, he'll be influential right away.