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Northwestern basketball 2018 player reviews: Aaron Falzon

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Falzon battled injuries in an inconsistent 2017-2018 season.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into 2017-2018, one of Northwestern’s biggest question marks was Aaron Falzon. Falzon missed nearly the entire 2016-2017 season, and, after a promising freshman campaign, he figured to be an important piece in Chris Collins’s rotation.

Falzon never quite put it together in 2017-18, in large part due to injuries. The sharpshooter from Massachusetts missed four games, but he clearly wasn’t 100 percent for many of the games he did play in.

His minutes dropped from 24.1 two seasons ago to 16 this past season, and his points per game dropped from 8.4 to 5.5. His three-point percentage, however, went up from his first season, rising 35.4 percent to 37.5 percent. Still, he wasn’t much of a difference-maker on the offensive end and struggled mightily defensively.

Falzon will play an important role going forward, especially given the loss of Scottie Lindsey, Bryant McIntosh and Gavin Skelly, all of whom were among the team’s better outside shooters.

Stats:

The following numbers are taken from KenPom.com.

Falzon’s offensive rating dropped from his freshman year, as did his effective field goal percentage. His turnover percentage increased slightly from his freshman year, though his free throw percentage improved by about 13 percent.

The stats generally match what the eye test says about Falzon: he affected the game as a three-point shooter, but he took a step back from his first season in Evanston.

Shot distribution:

Via Hoop-Math.com

The most notable observation from Falzon’s shot distribution is again an unsurprising one. Nearly three-quarters of his shots are threes, are most of those are assisted, meaning they’re catch-and-shoots. In the same vein, half of Falzon’s field goals at the rim were assisted.

The good:

Despite the injuries, the lineup chaos on the team and the general negativity surrounding the season, Falzon improved at the one thing he’s best at. In any offense, Falzon’s most important skill is his shooting, and he got better at shooting from beyond-the-arc in his second full season. Hopefully, his injuries limited his ability to finish through contact or guard his opponents, and he’ll be able to improve in those areas with another offseason of rest and condition.

The bad:

Falzon wasn’t able to diversify his offensive game much in his sophomore season. He was capable of putting the ball on the deck and making plays as a passer in 2015-2016, but he didn’t show much of that this past season. On a team bereft of playmakers, Falzon couldn’t become one (that also wasn’t necessarily his role).

On defense, Falzon had trouble. He wasn’t quick enough to stay in front of a lot of wings, and he wasn’t strong enough to guard bigs or add much on the glass.

Offseason focus:

The good news for Falzon is that what he needs is something a productive offseason can likely fix. Falzon needs to get stronger and sturdier, which could be possible with several months of a strength and conditioning program. Working on his body should also help his defense. He needs to stay on the court to have any success, and that has been a major issue the last two seasons.

If Falzon can add another move or two to his offensive arsenal, he’ll be able to threaten defenders and thus add create more space on the wing. Ball fakes and other dribbling moves could take Falzon from an effective shooter to a effective scorer.

The bottom line:

Falzon has talent, and Northwestern needs him to elevate his game next season. With the three seniors’ graduations and Isiah Brown and Rapolas Ivanauskas’s transfers, depth will be thin, meaning Falzon has to stay on the court. Obviously, he can shoot, but it’s hard to evaluate his 2017-2018 performance because it’s unclear how healthy he was throughout the season.