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Basketball mailbag: Preseason questions for Northwestern basketball

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Our Josh Rosenblat answers readers’ questions about the upcoming season for Northwestern Men’s basketball

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

I’m in an absolutely fantastic mood. The Cubs won the World Series last week.

And, Northwestern basketball opens its regular season Friday after an exhibition win at Welsh-Ryan Arena against Illinois-Springfield.

The Wildcats enter the season as a bit of a mystery. Alex Olah and Tre Demps have traded Evanston for Mons, Belgium. Vic Law returns from a season on the mend. Was Dererk Pardon a one-hit wonder or a revelation down low? Is Aaron Falzon just a sharpshooter from deep, or has he diversified his offensive game?

And, what about Bryant McIntosh? Can he handle what may become the greatest single-player offensive load for a Northwestern team since Jon Shurna in 2011-2012?

There are questions abound for Chris Collins and co., but the most fun ones come from you. Throughout this season, I’ll be answering your questions on Northwestern hoops. All you have to do is shoot me a tweet at @JMRosenblat (or @insidenu) or send an email to insidenusbn@gmail.com.

Let’s get started:

Over/under 9 wins in noncon? Over/under 8 wins in B1G play? Based on strength of schedule what are win thresholds for NIT/NCAAs? - Brian Chapatta (@BChappatta)

I’m sure we’re going to have a larger season prediction post coming later this week before the season-opener, so I won’t give too much away. But I think Northwestern plays well in the non-conference and will rack up a bunch of wins, similar to what the team did last year. So I’ll take the over on non-conference wins. Eight wins in Big Ten play? That’s tougher. I still think this team can get to .500 in the Big Ten, meaning nine wins. So what does that mean for the NIT and NCAA Tournament? I think that if Northwestern hits 20 wins before the Big Ten Tournament, it may be good enough, this season, for an NIT berth based on a slightly better non-conference schedule. But the NCAA Tournament will be reach with just 20 wins. I’d say just one or two non-conference losses could set Northwestern up for a chance at the NCAA Tournament. But it will still take 10-plus Big Ten wins for the committee to even consider the Wildcats with this schedule.

When Coach K retires, how long a contract will Duke give to [Illinois head coach] John Groce? - Ben Goren (@BenG412)

Duke will give John Groce a Kirk Ferentz-style contract to coach one game a year: the manager game against North Carolina. He’d be a perfect fit. Luckily for him, there isn’t a lot of offensive strategy that goes into that game.

Honestly, who doesn’t get inspired playing for this guy:

Which/how many of Penn State, Illinois or Minnesota can jump NU in the standings? - Ben Goren (@BenG412)

Illinois and Penn State. Not Minnesota. Illinois should be better than Northwestern, plain and simple. Malcolm Hill is absolutely a top-five Big Ten player and has a decent supporting class. If only there wasn’t something holding them back... Penn State is kind of similar, with Shep Garner taking the Hill role for the Nittany Lions. Garner is one of the best guards in the Big Ten.

Minnesota’s a mess.

Will Northwestern have meaningful depth this year or will it have to run B-Mac/Law into the ground? - Aaron Friedman (@AaronFriedman15)

Northwestern will run McIntosh and Law into the ground regardless of whether they have “meaningful depth.” But on the topic of depth, I think Falzon will be key as a third cog. His 24.6 minutes per game last season could turn into 28 or so. Pardon and freshman Barret Benson will have to prove they can handle a Big Ten front lines for consistent minutes, because after them there’s no depth at the “center” position. Gavin Skelly can play spot minutes but he’s more effective in spurts than in extended minutes based on how valuable his energy is off the bench. The coaching staff hopes Scottie Lindsey can add a scoring punch in the backcourt, but he’s yet to sustain solid play, especially against high-quality opponents.

I think this concept of “meaningful depth” is so, so important for Northwestern. But it’s not because they will have to play McIntosh and Law extreme minutes. They’re the two best players and they should play as much as possible. But its the depth at other positions that will prove most meaningful.

Over/under 3.5 Scottie Lindsey technical fouls? - Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell)

Under.

Over/under 2.5 BMac big balls dances? - Luke Srodulski (@lsrodulski)

Under.

But way over on 2.5 flexes.