Over the next two weeks, beginning Monday, March 23, we'll be holding an extended Inside NU roundtable to rehash and analyze Northwestern men's basketball's 2014/15 season. We'll pose one question every day -- some general, some more specific; some looking back, some looking ahead -- and a group of our writers will respond. Additionally, over the coming days, we'll have separate articles breaking down some of the topics in more depth.
Yesterday, we handed out the team MVP award to Alex Olah. Today, we examine Vic Law, who struggled for much of the season, but had a five game stretch in late February and early March during which he averaged 11.8 points per game and shot 54.5 percent from 3. So here's the question:
Was Vic Law's late season surge a fluke? Or a sign of things to come? Did it convince you that Law can eventually become a star?
Daniel Rapaport: For someone like me, who had serious doubts about Law at around the halfway point of this season, his resurgence was remarkably refreshing and oddly satisfying. It's always difficult and probably a waste of time to predict exactly what a player will become, but I don't see how you can't see Law's late season success as a sign of better things to come. It's easy to harp on his early season struggles (he was shooting a 25 percent clip from 3 before the Minnesota game) and chalk up his hot shooting streak as exactly that, a hot streak--as I'm sure other writers on this roundtable will do--but let's give the kid a break!
True freshman tend to struggle in the first half of their first college season; it takes time to get used to a new offense and just how much faster and more physical the game is, let alone get accustomed to balancing college life and college basketball. Law seemed to struggle with his place in the offense and that affected his confidence, but once he saw a few shots go in his entire demeanor visibly changed. No longer was he timid and hesitant to shoot, but was instead actively looking for ways to get involved on the offensive end.
And it's worth noting that his rebounding remained consistent throughout the year and should improve, granted he's able to put on weight. If he's able to do just that, he should couple his improved 3-point shooting with an increase in drives into the lane (I think we all projected Law to be a slasher), where hopefully he'll be able to use his 6-foot-7 frame and impressive leaping ability to become a solid finisher at the rim. It'll take time, as it often does in college basketball, but I'm optimistic that Law will show us all precisely why he was such a highly sought after recruit.
Ben Goren: I don't want to say that it was a fluke, because I think it's pretty clear that Vic Law has a really high ceiling, but I don't think Wildcat fans should expect that his performance against Indiana at home is going to become the new normal, at least not next year. There's no doubt that towards the end of the season, Law was red hot. But for me, it's hard to overlook that until about mid-February, Law was shooting 25 percent from 3. Going 9-13 from deep in one week against Minnesota, Penn State, and Indiana flipped that real quick, but to me, it looked more like a statistical anomaly than a turn of the corner.
Wildcat fans heaped unreasonable expectations onto Vic Law, and that has skewed perception of him. Law in 2014/15 was a raw athlete who could defend, and had a streaky jumper. He averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds, which is a completely respectable clip. Next year, it wouldn't surprise me if his game is unrecognizable to what it was this year. If Law can add some serious bulk, hopefully more of his shots can come at the rim instead of on jump shots. We'll see a few more 15 point games from Law next year, but I'd urge Wildcat fans to play it cool on Law for now. One hot streak doesn't undo a whole season. I'll say he gets 9 points and 6 rebounds per game next year.
Zach Pereles: I wouldn't call it a fluke, but Law still has a long way to go if he wants to be a star. His surge was really only two games: back-to-back double digit efforts against Penn State and Indiana, and he wound up with only 4 points against Indiana to end the year. He's a really long, athletic wing who needs to bulk up to be more effective at the rim, where he only shot 51 percent. The best hope is that Law has developed some confidence in his jump shot and will pack on the pounds this year so he's better at the rim. I was pleasantly surprised at how well he rebounded this year, and he finally learned how to cut down on his turnovers.
I'm still a believer in the Chicago-area product. He has all the physical tools and (hopefully) his jump shot is here to stay, but I'm not convinced he can be a star next year. I think he could and should average around 10 points and maybe 6 rebounds, but he's two years away from being a star. Still, I'm encouraged by the signs he showed as a shooter, and he certainly showed marked improvement over the course of the year.
Henry Bushnell: Daniel, Ben and Zach have already cited the relevant statistics and the importance of adding muscle, and I'm on board with the idea that Law isn't yet ready to be a star. But being around the team as much as I was this past season, it was evident that something clearly clicked for Law sometime during February. It was almost as if he had come into the year a bit over-confident, and perhaps didn't bring the requisite focus or intensity to workouts and practice day in and day out. His struggles set off alarm bells though--he even admitted he was taken aback by the physicality and level of play in the Big Ten--and after a while, he started to take preparation more seriously.
Assuming that attitude adjustment is a permanent one, I think the last month of the season is what we should focus on. It's not that we should totally ignore those first three months, and it's not that we should totally ignore the fact that he didn't arrive at NU with the right mentality. That is still slightly worrying. But I think there's reason to believe that it had a big impact on his on-court performance, and that it's now behind him. There are still concerns of course. I was surprised by his lack of lateral quickness, and his in-game awareness and shot selection left a lot to be desired. But I still think he can be an impact player in year two.
Josh Burton: Not a fluke. It's often said that college players don't experience the biggest jump in athletic ability/performance from their senior year in high school to freshman year in college, but rather from their freshman year to their sophomore year. It's clear Law struggled at times with the size and physicality in the Big Ten, but late in the season he showed an ability to adapt his game, and that resulted in more success. There's no reason why that, with some bulking up, can't continue next season as he and the rest of his teammates mature and get stronger. I wouldn't go crazy as to think his solid play down the stretch makes him a definite future star, yet it does provide a glimpse as to how good he can be if everything goes right for him. There's a reason he was such a highly touted recruit out of high school and, at least in NU's last couple of games, it showed.