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Northwestern basketball player previews: G/F Vic Law

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Can the talented junior take the next step?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Gonzaga vs Northwestern Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball season is just around the corner. To get ready for the No. 19 Northwestern Wildcats’ season, we will bring you in-depth player previews for every scholarship member of the 2017-18 Northwestern Wildcats. The penultimate player is athletic wing Vic Law.

Who he is:

Redshirt junior, forward; 6-foot-7, 200 pounds; South Holland, Ill.

The stats:

12.3 points per game; 32.1 minutes; 5.8 rebounds; 1.8 assists; 1.1 steals; 0.5 blocks; .403/.399/.738 shooting splits.

2016-17 review:

After surgery on a torn labrum right before the start of the 2015-16 season forced him to miss the whole year, Law entered his redshirt sophomore season as a giant question mark. He started the season hot, putting up at least 17 points in each of his first three games, but quickly settled into a pattern of inconsistency offensively that lasted the whole season. His scoring hinged on his jumper, and especially his three-ball — if it was there, he could control a game on the offensive end. But when it wasn’t, like against Dayton and Wake Forest, he disappeared. By Big Ten play, his offensive output seemed more consistent, but after a stretch of nine straight double digit scoring outputs he hit a near-disastrous cold streak that coincided with Northwestern’s worst month of the season. Over the last 7 games, he continued to confound, putting up 4 or fewer points three times and 16 or more twice.

Though his offensive output was by no means guaranteed, Law’s defense was ever-reliable, especially down the stretch of Northwestern’s historic season. He consistently hounded the opposition’s top guard while managing to help out significantly on the glass. Law’s offensive inconsistency often hurt the team, but his explosiveness and defensive ability helped Northwestern reach its vast potential when it needed to and helped create a historic season.

Strengths:

Law’s defense has been the best part of his game, and his on-ball defense is especially superb. The junior does an excellent job of using his body to cut off drivers, and can combine his length and court awareness to make impact plays like these on the defensive end:

As mentioned earlier, Law is also a sneaky-good rebounder, posting the 23rd-best defensive rebounding rate in the Big Ten last year despite having to focus on his perimeter responsibilities. That skill will certainly be called upon more this year with Sanjay Lumpkin’s departure.

Offensively, Law is able to drive to the rim and draw fouls when he puts his mind to it, and despite struggling from the line as a freshman, he shot 81.7 percent on free throws in Big Ten play last year, good for ninth in the conference. He may be a streaky shooter, but Law hit 40 percent of his triples last year, which ranked second on the team. He did most of his damage on catch-and-shoots:

There’s also something to be said for Law’s ability to get the team fired up. He dunks it harder than just about anyone, and his pure energy during the Michigan, Vanderbilt, and Gonzaga games at the end of the season helped rally the team behind him.

Who could forget this amazing moment?

Weaknesses:

For all of his defensive success, Law isn’t perfect on that end. He can struggle a bit on off-ball and help defense, especially when chasing quicker players like Maryland’s thankfully-graduated Melo Trimble, who went off in Evanston.

But honestly, that’s about it for defensive criticisms. On the offensive side of the ball, however, Law knows the main thing he needs to improve upon. “Offensively, I need to become a little more consistent. In February, I had that big slump...just need to help myself out, help my teammates out on the offensive end.”

One way he can do that is by continuing to develop options that he can go to when he’s cold. His nascent post game last year engendered limited results, and an unwillingness to consistently attack the basket led to just over 4 free throw attempts per game in Big Ten play. Law’s biggest problem last year was a lack of backup offensive production to supplement his jump shot. If he doesn’t add to his scoring capability this season, inconsistency will continue to rear its ugly head.

Expectations:

For Northwestern to take the next step this year and become a true contender in the national picture, Law will need to take the next step. He’s cemented himself as the team’s best defender, but he should be able to clean up some minor things there while diversifying his offensive skill set. Law should be able to bear a bit more of the scoring load without seeing a drop off defensively in what will be a crucial junior season. Doing so would help solidify Northwestern as a team to watch and could even give him a chance to become a fringe NBA prospect.