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 was a day of positivity. Today, we examine the other side of things:
What is one negative takeaway from the season that we haven't already addressed that stood out to you?
Ben Goren: We need to have a serious conversation about the video boards at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Some of it is really cool. The Dunkwestern hype video played before the second half? Money. Gavin Skelly clowning around? Hilarious. The Pound The Rock intro before the starting lineups? Maybe a little hokey, but on the whole still pretty cash. But Northwestern does some stuff with the video boards that's pretty bad. What gives with the PA announcer screaming out "AND THE CATS ARE ON THEIR WAY" when the video board just shows the team walking through the practice arena? Isn't that a little bit too hyped up for what's going on? Then there's that weird pump up video that's played in close games late. Maybe it's just because the team finished 15-17 and that there didn't seem to be a huge amount of weight on any one game. Maybe. But I don't know, there was just something kinda strange about being yelled at by Alex Olah to get loud. Just like I gave Chris Collins a pass because he's new on the job, I'll give the NU video board staff a pass too. But I think they're just scratching the surface of their potential.
Kevin Dukovic: Ben, I have to disagree with you on the Pound The Rock intro video. One of the worst intros I've ever seen. It was basically dudes dribbling, shooting and barely dunking in an empty gym. At one point they show Olah doing biceps curls with like 15 pound weights. Yawn. Now, every time I hear the song "Centuries" I cringe. Thank goodness they switched it out mid-season with a video that included actual game highlights. Now that I got that out of my system I'll answer the actual question at hand. The all-too-frequent and prolonged field goal droughts are a big negative that needs to be addressed. Yes, as Jason detailed in yesterday's roundtable answer, Northwestern's offensive efficiency improved substantially this year. But these 10 minute field goal droughts are unacceptable. They kill momentum and cost NU games. Collins and company have to find ways to generate easy buckets or better looks (or get to the line) when shots aren't falling. This problem is linked to another issue we've talked about at length this season. One way to get a quick and easy bucket is to force turnovers and score in transition before the other team can set up on defense. As we've documented, however, Northwestern really struggles to force turnovers.
Daniel Rapaport: There was a time when this season looked destined to be a tragic failure, and progress, though perhaps existing, was hardly visible. And while Northwestern is both young and certainly rebuilding, their struggles in close games were difficult to stomach and perhaps cause for concern. Also, losing ten in a row is also not even a little bit fun. The four-game win streak was a season-saver, but let's not forget just how bleak things looked on Feb. 10, when non-March Michigan State beat Northwestern by 24 to hand the Wildcats their tenth consecutive conference loss. Remember the comedy of errors at Maryland? I distinctly recall swallowing my own vomit (metaphorically) when Jershon Cobb decided there were better uses of his time than boxing out Dez Wells. Being a Northwestern fan is not good for one's well being, but we sign up for it each and every season...maybe because we are sadistic freaks, and once (if) Northwestern makes the NCAA Tournament we'll all hop on the non-existent DePaul bandwagon?
David Gernon: One negative that did not get discussed much during the season was Northwestern's inability to defend the three ball, ranking as the worst team in the Big Ten at defending the three. Opposing teams shot 37.7 percent from deep versus the Wildcats. They somehow managed to get worse one conference play started, allowing opponents to make 38.8 percent of their threes. That amounted to second to last in the Big Ten-in front of only Minnesota, who let teams shoot 38.9 percent. Northwestern also gave up the most attempts for three in conference play, meaning opponents probably weren't just making tough shots. Landing at the bottom of the conference in defending the arc comes as a bit of a surprise, considering the team's overall field goal defense is middle of the pack, ranking eighth in the conference overall and seventh in Big Ten play. Threes are the great equalizer and a few bombs from deep can be enough to ignite a comeback in the other team, put the game out of reach or swing the momentum. Hopefully the Wildcats, with their long, athletic wings can start disrupting more beyond the arc.
Jason Dorow: Since day one of the NU era, we've known that Chris Collins wants the Wildcats to push the pace. He wants Northwestern to get up and down the floor and score in transition, a lot. In Collins' first year, this was a tough task, perhaps an impossible task, given the personnel from the Bill Carmody era. With Alex Olah and a dinged up JerShon Cobb still around this season, running the floor may not have been optimal, but the opportunity to change the tempo was there. And it didn't happen. Northwestern ranks 339th in KenPom's adjusted tempo ranking, and their average offensive possession length shortened just 0.3 seconds (from 19.7 to 19.4), which ranks 275th nationally. The offense made huge strides despite the stagnant offense, so does that mean we may never see the fast-pace play Collins envisioned? Only time will tell. The freshmen certainly didn't look prepared to run the fastbreak against Big Ten competition this season. Maybe the pace will rise with the development curve. If not, it seems like Collins will be making big adjustments to the system at each end of the floor every year.