It’s that time of year again. Even with football season in full swing, men’s basketball season is right around the corner. To kick off our 2020-2021 coverage of the men’s team, we will preview each player on Northwestern’s roster. First up is sophomore forward Robbie Beran.
Who he is
Sophomore; forward; 6-foot-9; 215 pounds; Richmond, VA; former top-100/four-star recruit
5.0 points per game; 19.1 minutes; 3.4 rebounds; 0.6 assists; .390 FG%, .400 3FG%, .650 FT%
Arriving in Evanston as one of the top recruits in program history, Beran grew into a larger role as the season progressed. At a power forward position with little depth, the freshman became a significant contributor, especially as the team began its conference slate. He transitioned especially well with his best stretch of the year coming early in Big Ten play when he averaged 10.6 points through five games, including a season-high 17-point performance against Illinois.
By the end of the year, Beran overtook Pete Nance as the starting power forward and became a reliable contributor in his role as a stretch four, highlighted by his three-point shooting and blocking abilities.
However, his thin frame hurt him at times, especially on the defensive end and finishing in the lane, where he was often outmuscled by some of the conference’s top post players. Now with a year under his belt, the former top recruit is set to become an even more critical contributor in the rotation.
Beran’s greatest value has been his ability to catch and shoot from behind the arc. 95% of his made baskets were assisted. Despite his mediocre shooting percentage overall, he was reliable from three, connecting on 40% of his attempts.
With the role of the stretch four becoming more important in the college game, Beran’s height and range are significant assets for the Wildcats. He contributed around the rim as well, averaging 3.4 rebounds per game and blocking 17 shots on the year, trailing only Nance.
Despite his shot blocking, defense remains one of the weakest aspects of the sophomore’s game. Last season, he averaged sixth in defensive rating and plus/minus among the eight rotation players and often struggled in the Wildcats’ defensive rotation.
On the offensive end, he posted the lowest shooting percentage from inside the arc and at the rim of all the rotation players, which was an issue, considering 60% of his attempts came from those zones. Taking nearly half his shots at the rim, the Richmond native must improve his strength and conditioning to help him convert on those attempts.
Finally, dribbling proved a con for Beran as the vast majority of his made shots were off the pass, and he posted one of the team’s worst assist-to-turnover ratios with just 19 assists and 26 turnovers on the year.
With a year under his belt and having carved himself out a sizable role, Beran will benefit from more experience. His main focus for the offseason improving his strength and conditioning to benefit his play around the rim and defense. In last week’s press conference, Chris Collins said Beran added 10-to-12 pounds of muscle this offseason, which could help right off the bat.
While he ended last season with a starting role, Beran will likely continue to split time with Nance at power forward and play significant minutes, but his place as a starter is still undetermined. If he comes out this season a more conditioned player like Collins said, becomes more reliable on defense and improve his shooting inside the arc while still connecting from three, he is set for improvement in year two.