For a Northwestern team that lacked depth at the forward position, it was great news when it received the commitment of Robbie Beran, a four-star recruit from Virginia. As the highest-ranked recruit of his NU class, Beran was expected to get plenty of opportunities behind sophomore Pete Nance.
While Beran was not spectacular on either end of the court, his development throughout the season was apparent, and head coach Chris Collins seemed to agree. By season’s end, the freshman overtook Pete Nance as the starting power forward, and he continued to serve as a serviceable stretch four.
The following numbers are taken from KenPom.com
When looking at Beran’s shooting splits of 39/40/65, it is clear that he is a good floor spacer who struggles to score elsewhere. Beran shot just 38.5 percent on two-pointers, the second lowest mark on the team. This brought down his efficiency quite a bit, but his 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc kept his overall tally respectable.
With a usage rate of 16.8 percent, Beran was more of a role player. With stretch fours becoming more and more common throughout NCAA, the forward’s combination of length and shooting will be crucial to counter teams with players of a similar skillset.
Standing at 6-foot-9 with a lanky frame, Beran turned out to be one of the better shot blockers on the team with a block rate of 3.4 percent, the third-highest after Nance and Jared Jones. However, his shot blocking ability did not necessarily translate into good defense: he was sixth in both defensive rating and defensive plus/minus among rotation players.
Amongst the eight rotation players, Beran’s field goal percentage both at the rim and 2-point jumpers were the lowest on the team. This statistic is a bit concerning given that over 60 percent of the freshman’s shots came from these two zones.
It is clear that Beran needs to fill out in order to convert more shots at the rim. The towering forward should have less of a problem finishing in the paint than guards like Buie or Spencer, who both took and made more shots at the rim. His percentages should be closer to Jones, who made the same amount of shots at the rim as Beran despite attempting 17 fewer from the restricted area.
On the other hand, Beran shot only 25 percent on two-point jumpers, where 22 percent of his shots came from. Mid-range shots are known to be the least efficient shot on the court, evidenced by NU’s team accuracy of 34.8 percent from that zone. Beran should simply avoid taking these shots as his percentages from the three-point line is significantly better.
Beran’s redeeming quality on offense is his three-ball, where he converted 40 percent from beyond the arc. The forward relied on catch-and-shoot threes as 95 percent of his makes were assisted, but as long as he continues to shoot them at a high-clip, his focus should be on increasing the volume rather than practicing pull-up threes.
With pretty much no depth at the power forward position, Beran’s ability to contribute was crucial to the team. Though the Richmond native failed to make any big impact for the ‘Cats, he was still a solid player who clearly made progression as the season progressed. His best stretch was at the beginning of Big Ten play, during which he averaged 10.6 points through five games, highlighted by his season-high, 17-point game against Illinois.
Beran also turned out to be a better fit with the starting unit than Nance, as he had a lower usage rate and more defined offensive role. Unlike Nance who demanded shots and often dismantled the flow on offense, the freshman forward embraced his role as a catch-and-shoot specialist whose focus was on helping his teammates get better looks.
Finally, despite his lack of strength at the position, Beran held his own defensively with his mobility and shot blocking ability. Though he struggled against bigger, more traditional forwards, he was not a liability on the defensive end, and his effort and instincts seem enough to help him develop into an above average defender.
It is difficult to blame the freshman for his size as he only had a year to develop his strength and conditioning, but his finishing needs to improve. For a forward who takes nearly half his shots at the rim, Beran simply has to convert them at a higher clip to at least become average in terms of efficiency.
Along with Jared Jones, Beran has one of the worst assist:turnover ratios on the team. This is more a knock on the forward’s turnover rate rather than his low assist rate, given that he is not expected to be a playmaker. Much like the rest of the team, Beran should focus on limiting his turnovers as Northwestern struggles to defend in transition.
Many of Beran’s problems stem from his thin frame, and that can be solved through a long offseason with a focus on strength and conditioning. He gained valuable experience competing against some very good Big Ten talent, and his main weaknesses have already been exposed. If things go right this offseason, we will very likely see a stronger, more confident sophomore who can finish through contact at the rim.
The Bottom Line
Beran was not an eye opener like Buie, nor was he a liability who made mistakes on the court. He was forced into a role that did not expect much out of him, but he still showed glimpses of why he was so highly ranked as a recruit. For the most part, Beran transitioned well to Big Ten competition and his ceiling on both ends seems to be high with his talent level and a unique skillset. His role will eventually expand, and we may see the forward blossom into a significant offensive contributor.