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.
Our penultimate scouting report looks at sophomore Vic Law:
Stats to know (2014-15 season)
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Shot Chart (via ShotAnalytics.com)
Vic Law struggled to find one specific shot last season that he could hit with consistency. He didn't display a smooth enough offensive game to find high-percentage shots between five feet and 20 feet from the hoop, but his lack of strength made it tough for him to finish through contact at the rim. And it wasn't until late in the year that Law's three-point shot came on strong.
Law came to Northwestern as one of the biggest recruits in program history, but in year one, he failed to live up to what were probably unreasonably lofty expectations. Early on, he looked flummoxed by the pace of the college game, and looked hindered by the strength deficit he faced. And when his offense didn't come easy, his shot selection suffered as a result.
But midway through conference play, something clicked. After shooting an effective field goal percentage of 31 percent over the first half of conference play, that number shot up to 57 percent over the last month of the season. Law even said he wasn't prepared for college basketball, nor for the Big Ten, when he arrived at NU, but that he adjusted some time in late January or early February. The results showed. Now with another 10-plus pounds of muscle, Law will be looking to further diversify his offensive game.
Law is athletic. At 6-foot-7, his leaping ability and straight-line speed allow him to match up with both guards and forwards on defense, and make him an important asset as a rebounder. He also runs the floor really well, and can finish in transition. And while he had troubles with the ball in his hands on offense early on last year, his ball skills improved enough in February and March that it's reasonable to think he'll be a threat with the ball in his hands as a sophomore.
Law isn't a scorer. He's neither crafty nor smooth enough with the ball to get to the rim consistently, and he just didn't seem entirely comfortable last season. While his shot mechanics and high release make him a potentially good catch-and-shoot player, they don't lend themselves to shooting off the dribble or off balance, and Law hasn't exhibited much touch on his mid-range shots. He also lacks the experience, awareness and lateral quickness to really be considered an elite defender right now.
Last year, Law played a decent amount of power forward, and he did so for two reasons. One was necessity. The other was that he wasn't contributing enough offensively to be a two or a three. But that's what head coach Chris Collins sees him as this season. While Law might end up guarding opposing power forwards depending on lineups and matchups, he's a wing player — closer to a guard — on offense. He won't be playing much of the traditional "four" he played last season, Collins told Inside NU.
Northwestern doesn't necessarily need Law to be a 15-point-per-game scorer, but Law will be counted upon to contribute more on offense this year, and at least be the threat from beyond the arc that he was over the second half of last season. On defense, Law will be asked to do a number of things, and his length will, at times, tempt Collins to stick Law on an opponent's best perimeter scorer.
What to expect
Law is going to be better this year. He's added strength, but perhaps more importantly, he's got a year of Big Ten experience under his belt. He'll be better prepared mentally for his sophomore season, and tempered expectations could help him. He's been battling a minor shoulder injury during the preseason, which could lead to a slow start, but even if Law can just project February performance out over a full season, he'll be a key contributor for Northwestern in 2015-16. Even if he can't, and some of the struggles return, he'll be an important role player, a starter, and, even if inconsistent, somebody that can spark Northwestern on any given night.