Northwestern men’s basketball has one more contest before it will head into the meat of conference play. It’s been another trying year for a Wildcat squad that is inexperienced and near the bottom of the Big Ten in terms of talent, but the ‘Cats have shown fight in games where they could have easily rolled over.
With all of that being said, here are ten stats that explain that introduction:
0.9 is the average years of experience that this young Northwestern squad has. It is important to note that this stat is weighted by minutes; this means that if you pick a random Northwestern player on the court, that player is more likely to be a first-year player than not.
In comparison to other Big Ten teams, the ‘Cats have the least experience in the conference with Illinois next at 1.1. Wisconsin leads the conference in this category with 2.2 while the average years of experience of Big Ten comes out to approximately 1.5.
67.6 is the number of possessions that Northwestern generates per game. The Wildcats only trail the Boilermakers and the Badgers in terms of this statistic. It is a bit concerning for NU’s offense to be this slow given the lack of shot creators on the roster.
The rise of Boo Buie may solve this issue as the season goes on, as he is often pushing the pace in transition and fearlessly taking shots when the defense leaves him open.
When Buie is off the court, the ‘Cats are often searching for an open shot by passing the ball but they often find themselves settling for a contested jumper or turning the ball over. What this offense lacks in ISO scorers, they need to make up with well-executed plays leading to open layups or three-pointers. A slow pace coupled with poor efficiency will always lead to a stagnant offense.
65.4 is the average number of points per game the ‘Cats are giving up. This ranks 104th in the nation and eighth in the conference.
Head coach Chris Collins has been trying out a number of defensive schemes throughout the season based on their opponent. From the hybrid zone in the beginning of the season to the predominantly man-to-man defense in the most recent game against DePaul, Collins is still figuring out the best scheme based on personnel.
For the most part, Northwestern’s defense has been steady despite the constant defensive shakeup. The ‘Cats have held Providence to 63, Bradley to 51 and Purdue to 58. Playing good defense will always keep games within reach, but as competition gets stronger, Collins will have to settle on one scheme for the team to get fully accustomed to.
+0.0 is the current rebounding margin for the Wildcats. They have grabbed a grand total of 386 boards this season, and their opponents have also grabbed 386 rebounds as well. At first glance, this stat should not be too concerning.
That is, until you see where the rest of Big Ten stands. Northwestern ranks 13th in the rebounding margin category, only above Nebraska. Every other school in the conference has a positive margin, with elite rebounding teams like MSU and Indiana having rebounding margins of over 10. This number will go down for most teams as conference play begins, and so will Northwestern’s.
Pete Nance seems to be the only elite rebounder on this roster, and the ‘Cats will face challenges on defense as they start giving up extra possessions to teams with better size. Collins will need to put an emphasis on boxing out to avoid this problem.
6.3 is Northwestern’s three-point field goal made per game total and 31.4 percent is their three-point percentage. NU ranks 11th in both categories among Big Ten teams. Shooting the three-ball at a 31.4 percent clip results in only 0.94 points per possession, which is even lower than the efficiency of the ‘Cats’ two point field goals (0.98 points per possession).
Both are not great, but the ‘Cats will need to improve on their shooting in order for the offense to thrive. At the moment, only Buie and Kopp are consistent outside threats. Northwestern needs more floor spacers to make things easy for players like Nance and Young.
Coming into college advertised as a stretch big, Robbie Beran has proven to be capable of being a threat beyond the arc. He is currently shooting 42.9 percent from the three-point line but is low on volume. As his defense gets better throughout the season, Beran should see the floor more and help diversify Northwestern’s offense with his shooting.
Four is the number of players on Northwestern that average 10+ points per game. Kopp leads the team in scoring with 11.5, with Nance, Buie and Young following at 11.3, 10.5 and 10.5, respectively.
With all four of these players being either freshman or sophomores, it is encouraging to see that Northwestern has more than one capable player on offense. With more than enough of a supporting cast, the ‘Cats need a legitimate star to lead their scoring. Fortunately, they seem to have found one in Buie.
16.0 is the number of points that Buie is averaging against conference teams. With a shooting line of 55/71/71, his efficiency is at a ridiculous 69 percent true shooting rate. Buie’s range and explosiveness on offense is something the ‘Cats have not seen since their tournament years. The fact that Buie is a true freshman and that these games have been against high level competition shows that Buie may be the offensive leader NU has been searching for.
9.5 is Jared Jones’ personal fouls per 40 minutes. In only 88 minutes of playing time this season, Jones has committed 21 personal fouls. Though the freshman center stands tall at 6-foot-10 and weighs 240 pounds, he has not been able to contain any opposing centers on defense.
With only Young being a capable traditional center for the ‘Cats, they are desperate for some improvement from Jones. He must get stronger and smarter to stay on the court.
14.8 percent is A.J Turner’s 3-point percentage. It is fair to say that Turner is off to a horrific start to the season, with his individual stats down across the board. The most notable stat is his 3-point percentage, which has regressed from a below-average 32.5 percent from last season.
This season seems to be a fall from grace from the fifth-year forward but there is plenty of time to bounce back. Turner is a career 31 percent shooter from beyond the arc with a fairly large sample size, so expect him to convert more threes. With the injury news from Anthony Gaines, Turner should be seeing more playing time in the next couple games.
5-6 is Northwestern’s current record. It has been a roller coaster of a season for the ‘Cats with some disappointing losses sprinkled in. But fans should not be too discouraged with this mark at this point in the season. The Wildcats are playing some exciting basketball, win or lose, and they are looking better and better each game as the team with the least experience in the Big Ten gains it.
Not all of Northwestern’s problems can be addressed this season, but fixing what they can and continuing to develop should be enough for a rebuilding year. This ‘Cats team does have talent, it’s just a matter of whether or not it will show as the season progresses.