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Five numbers that explain MBB’s season so far

Some of these you may have heard before.

Indiana v Northwestern Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Northwestern has had a rollercoaster of a season thus far, with several ups and just as many downs. Currently on the upswing of a three-game winning streak, we gathered a few of the most important statistics that have best represented Northwestern’s season with just seven contests to go.

1. The number of games Northwestern has lost with a late game lead or tie (6)

Easily the most important number on this list is the amount of late game collapses. Chris Collins’ squad has become incredibly prone to falling apart at the end in recent years, and this year may be the worst of all. Looking at the month of January alone, the ‘Cats played nine games against Big Ten foes. In those nine games, Northwestern had a lead or was tied with its opponent in the final six minutes of play in six of those matches. The Wildcats lost five of the six, with their lone victory coming against Michigan State. Whether the blame is on coaching or players being unable to hit shots, Northwestern has found new ways to lose time and time again.

2. Pete Nance’s 3-point percentage (41.5%)

Moving to a more positive note, a huge factor in the success Northwestern has found has been the development of Pete Nance as a shooter. In each of his four years at Northwestern, the senior forward has improved his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, a big reason behind the ‘Cats’ ability to space the floor. His numbers have faltered a bit since his ankle injury, but Nance’s transition to a stretch four has overall played a large role in Northwestern’s offense this year.

3. Opponent 3-point percentage (35.6%)

On the other side, Northwestern has allowed its opponents to shoot a Big Ten-high 35.6% from deep. This struggle to defend the 3-point shot has often been a major contributor in the Wildcats’ late-game collapses, allowing their opponents to crawl back into games and nail clutch shots that seal the deal. This section also would feel incomplete without mentioning the Wisconsin game, in which the Badgers cashed nine of their 17 threes, including a half-court buzzer-beater from Chucky Hepburn and ridiculous late shot from Johnny Davis.

4. Turnover Percentage (13.7%)

One area Northwestern has really improved in this season is its ball security. Turnovers were a place where the Wildcats had struggled in previous years due to being a young team, but the squad has improved its ability to take care of the ball this season. This has allowed the team to stay in games a lot longer (compared to last season’s blowouts), even if the team can’t quite finish down the stretch yet. This mark isn’t just great amongst the Big Ten, it’s great nationally, as the percentage ranks fifth in the entire NCAA.

5. Northwestern’s ranking in KenPom “Luck”, out of 358 teams (No. 347)

You already knew this was going to be here. Do I need to say anything more? The notorious “luck” metric has not been kind to Northwestern this season, and a lot of that comes due to the previously mentioned late-game collapses. In fact, the team’s rating of luck actually got so low after consecutive losses to Michigan and Illinois that the ranking fell to 356th, which was the third worst in all of college basketball. The recent win streak has given Northwestern a slight boost in the metric, and the ‘Cats have to be hoping their luck has been reversed for good down the stretch.