After two seasons in which Benson played eight minutes per game and ten minutes per game respectively, it was assumed that the junior would step into a bigger role this past season. The losses of Gavin Skelly and Rapolas Ivanauskas paved the road for him to step in and back up an elite center in Dererk Pardon. He did end up playing the role of Pardon’s backup, but didn’t have much success doing so.
Benson didn’t improve in any noticeable manner, and his foul troubles often left Chris Collins in precarious positions. In the end, Benson’s surprise departure from the program leaves the Wildcats in a difficult position in terms of manpower, but arguably won’t hurt very much on the court.
While it is a decrease from last year, the number that stands out the most for Benson is his 7 fouls committed per 40 minutes. For a junior, that’s just an unacceptable number and it hurt the team in multiple ways. Not only was Northwestern left in foul trouble quite often, but Pardon often wasn’t able to get the rest that he needed due to Benson’s foul troubles. Other than that, none of his numbers varied that much from the 2017-18 season, which is telling.
Benson had the greatest percentage of shots at the rim on the entire team, yet he had the fifth-worst field goal percentage in those situations. There really just aren’t any positive numbers to talk about here, from an 18 percent 2-point jumper conversion rate to a 56 percent free throw percentage. I hate to be so negative, but the reality of the situation is that Benson struggled mightily offensively.
The best aspect of Benson’s game cannot be evaluated on the stat sheet. His remarkable energy and intensity accompanied him every time he stepped onto the court, and it seemed to have a positive impact on his teammates. Benson was also a fairly reliable defender and rebounder. His defensive rebounding percentage was the best on the team, as was his block percentage.
It’s been mentioned before, but Benson’s fouling had so many adverse impacts on the team’s performance. Further, his offensive production wasn’t where it needed to be to avoid being a liability on that end of the court. When Benson was fed the ball in the post, it often seemed like he had no idea what he was doing, and it resulted in teams being able to take advantage with double teams or even just man-to-man defense.
The most important pieces of his game that Benson needs to improve are his fouling and his offensive production. In terms of fouling, it comes down to lateral quickness and mental focus. It isn’t easy to do, but Benson needs to be able to move with his opponent in a manner where he isn’t getting beaten and responding with a foul. He can also avoid more basic fouls by committing less simple hand check and shoves during basic on-ball defense.
Offensively, Benson currently doesn’t provide much to a team. He doesn’t stretch the floor and he isn’t an effective post scorer. Developing his offensive game will allow him to become a much more useful player, and if he cuts down on his fouling, he could double his minutes fairly easily and be a contributor on a solid-to-good mid-major team.
The Bottom Line
It was a disappointing year for Benson, there’s no way around it. That being said, he was still expected to take over the starting center role next year, which is why it came as such a surprise that he decided to leave as a graduate transfer. Though his final year of eligibility won’t take place in Welsh-Ryan Arena, we’ll be rooting for him to excel in his senior year.