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Northwestern men’s basketball 2020-21 player reviews: Robbie Beran

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The former four-star recruit had an up-and-down second season.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

With the men’s NCAA Tournament underway and Northwestern’s season officially over, it’s time to break down the Wildcats’ 9-15 rollercoaster season and the performances of each individual player. Next up is Robbie Beran, the sophomore forward out of Richmond, Virginia.

Beran came to Evanston in 2019 as one of the most highly touted recruits of the Chris Collins era. Standing at an impressive 6-foot-9 with a sweet shooting stroke, Beran seemed to fit the mold of the prototypical three-and-D player that had found lots of success in the college game.

Two seasons into his college career, Beran has played a complementary role on the team but has largely failed to live up to expectations. The forward showed flashes of talent during his freshman year, enough to earn him a spot in the starting lineup but struggled with consistency on both ends of the floor.

Beran faced similar challenges this season, providing a much-needed spark for the team at times while struggling to make much of an impact at others. Despite an underwhelming first two years in Evanston, Beran still has plenty of potential and opportunity to improve in the seasons ahead.

The Stats

The following numbers are from KenPom.com

When looking at Beran’s statistics, his two-point percentage stands out. It’s not the most glamorous figure, but his mark of 53% from inside the arc is a significant increase from 39% in 2019-20. This highlights Beran’s improved shot selection and general decision-making as he has gotten more playing experience. However, this increase in efficiency also came with a decrease in volume, as Beran attempted just 2.1 two-point field goals per game this season as opposed to 2.9 his freshman year.

In general, Beran’s offensive role decreased from a season ago. The Richmond native was involved in just 14.6% of offensive possessions, down from 16.8% and good for seventh on the team out of the nine-man rotation that Collins employed for most of the season. While Beran has never been a primary ball-handler, it’s not encouraging to see his role diminishing following his freshman campaign.

Shot Distribution

The following stats are taken from hoop-math.com

After shooting an impressive 40% from long range as a freshman, Beran’s three-point percentage took a hit. The sophomore took just five more threes this season but hit on a decreased 35% of them. All of those long balls, along with four out of every five two-point jump shots that Beran took, were assisted. His inability to create his own jump shot off the dribble has made it difficult for him to become a go-to scorer.

Another interesting statistic is that Beran took more threes than twos this season. Despite his tall frame and solid ball-handling skills, Beran’s lack of strength made it difficult for him to find scoring opportunities when attacking the cup, especially against stiffer competition. When Beran did make it deep into the paint, though, he found some success converting his shots, hitting at a clip of 60.5% at the rim.

The Good

Beran has shown flashes of his high ceiling during his time in Evanston. While the extent of his offensive game has yet to fully emerge, Beran’s impact on defense is a notable one. He’s not quick enough to guard all five positions on the floor, but Beran has shown that he can be an excellent shot-blocker in the paint. The sophomore forward does find himself in foul trouble often, but he generally has a positive defensive presence whenever he is on the floor.

Beran’s game also has notably more polish now. Although he saw a decrease in his three-point shooting percentage this year, he makes good decisions with the basketball and didn’t make as many mistakes as he did during the prior season, as evidenced by his low turnover rate.

The Bad

Being a solid defender and not making mistakes on offense can only do so much for a player. Northwestern needed an offensive spark for the bulk of its conference season, and Beran didn’t step up.

For the season, the sophomore averaged just 5.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game and scored five points or fewer in all but six of NU’s conference games. If Northwestern was an offensive juggernaut, that type of production might be fine, but as a typical starter, he lacked significant impact.

The Bottom Line

Expectations were high for Beran coming into the 2020-21 season following a promising freshman campaign. The hope was that a year of experience under his belt would help him emerge as a primary offensive scoring option for the ‘Cats. He struggled, though, to make a significant offensive impact all season long despite being a starter. Given the loss of the Miller Kopp, who took 21% of NU’s shots while he was on the court, Beran will have to step up his aggressiveness and become more consistent as a shooter. If he can do so, perhaps he’ll begin unlocking the offensive potential that made him such a sought-after recruit in high school.