After an embarrassing opening night loss last week, Coach Collins and the Wildcats play host to a 2-0 Providence team that will present a much tougher challenge than Merrimack. The Friars roll into Evanston coming off blowout wins against Sacred Heart and NJIT.
Here are three storylines to follow heading into Wednesday’s matchup:
Will Pete Nance be able to dominate despite stronger opposition?
Northwestern’s heralded 2018 recruit finally looked the part in the season opener. Nance dropped 19 points and 12 rebounds on an efficient 47 percent from the field. That being said, playing against Merrimack is not an accurate litmus test for how he will perform the rest of the year. Still, an opening night double-double is very encouraging for a player that never quite looked comfortable on the court last season.
Outside of Pat Spencer, Nance was the only Wildcat who seemed to find a rhythm last Friday night at Welsh-Ryan. The power forward will face a much greater test going up against a Providence team that has been to the NCAA Tournament every year since 2014.
How will the front-court rotation look?
After losing Dererk Pardon, it appeared as if there would be a significant hole to fit in the starting lineup. After opening night, it seems as if Ryan Young is Coach Collins’ solution. Young played 21 minutes, posting 5 points and 5 rebounds, but struggled mightily on defense while committing a few costly turnovers down the stretch.
To plug a player into the starting lineup who went a whole season without seeing the court is bound to have growing pains come with it. However, given the limited options on the roster, there doesn’t seem to be a clear solution.
It will be interesting going forward to see how Collins balances the minutes between Young, Jared Jones, and Robbie Beran. Young is a more traditional center, but both Jones and Beran add a different dynamic to the court. Jones as a slasher with athletic prowess and Beran with the ability to space the floor with his shooting. The two true freshmen saw just 16 minutes of combined action against Merrimack.
How will the ‘Cats fare in the 3-point battle?
In Friday night’s contest, the Warriors made seven more threes and shot almost three times better from beyond-the-arc than the ‘Cats. Success from the three-point line is often a telling tale of how the game will end, especially in college. Northwestern’s dismal 12 percent mark from three-point range against Merrimack is simply not going to cut it moving forward.
Northwestern struggled mightily on both ends. The ‘Cats failed to close out well on open-shooters and couldn’t take advantage of open opportunities. Lacking a serious post presence like the team had last year in Pardon, court-spacing is everything, and the Wildcats will have to make open shots if they have any chance of being competitive throughout the season.
Northwestern takes on Providence at 8:00 p.m tomorrow in Evanston as part of the 2019 Gavitt Tipoff Games. Stay tuned as we bring you live coverage from Welsh-Ryan Wednesday night.