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Northwestern men’s basketball 2021-2022 player reviews: Robbie Beran

The junior struggled with consistency but managed to improve across the board.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the men’s NCAA tournament has come to a conclusion, it is time for college basketball fans to reflect on the past season before setting their sights on the future. For us, that means breaking down the performance of each player on Northwestern’s men’s basketball team. Next up, from Richmond, Va., forward Robbie Beran.

This was a turbulent season for Northwestern: the team started 8-2, lost eight of its next nine, then heated up and cooled off once again, finishing with a record of 15-16. While many players left some questions that are yet to be answered, Chris Collins played junior Robbie Beran with regularity, allowing everyone to get a good glimpse of his game.

No, this term regularity does not guarantee consistency. Beran started every game he appeared in for the ‘Cats, and it was an up and down season for the forward. That being said, his role will be expanded next season.

Stats

The following stats are from KenPom.com

While similar to his sophomore season, Beran was able to improve offensively for Northwestern. His offensive rating increased by 6.2 points and his effective field goal percentage increased by 3.8 points. Look at his two-point field-goal percentage where he made over 50 percent of his shots from inside the arc. Additionally, he shot 37 percent from three while not taking as many shots as some of Northwestern’s other offensive weapons (mainly Ty Berry, Boo Buie and Chase Audige). All-in-all, Beran was efficient offensively.

Defensively, the junior increased his defensive rebound, block and steal percentages by a decent amount compared to other years. He notably saw a lot of time this past season at power forward, and this meant a different role on defense — and that role only helped his game. While not noticeable at times, Beran’s defense was definitely a bright spot.

Shot Distribution

The following stats are taken from hoop-math.com

It is worth highlighting that Beran was second on the team in effective field-goal percentage at 56.4 percent — first out of players who took over 20 shots the entire season (only Matthew Nicholson was higher at 69 percent, but he attempted just 13 field-goals this season). Additionally, this occurred in a season where almost half of Beran’s shots came from two and half from three.

Beran was sixth on the team in field-goals attempted, but he was still able to have a respectable distribution even when he was not the primary, secondary, or tertiary option on the court.

One more thing to note that will be addressed more later: Northwestern’s true starting big, Ryan Young, is currently in the transfer portal. This means next year Beran will need to take up a bigger role inside unless someone else steps up to fill Young’s spot. The junior’s field goal percentage at the rim was 61.4 percent, which is only slightly less than his teammate’s. The point is, it’s far to expect Beran to take more shots at the rim next season.

The Good

The reliability in Collins’ usage of Beran definitely stands out. When the junior was needed by his coach, he was there. Beran was healthy the entire season and remained stable for the ‘Cats.

At times, he exploded offensively. Two games stand out specifically: the double-overtime loss against Maryland where Beran dropped 17 points and senior night against Minnesota, where he hit his first three three-point attempts and finished with 15 points on the night. He showed he could hit the big shots.

Defensively, one play stands out that exemplifies his improvements throughout the season. It was the junior’s block on Nebraska’s Trey McGowens in the Big Ten Tournament to seal the game, eventually sending the ‘Cats through to the second round. Again, if he is going to play more where Young occupied space, this is what Northwestern fans and coaches will want to see.

The Bad

Reliability as a starter does not equal consistency in output. While Beran showed that he can score, there were games this season where he was a complete non-factor. This might have been because he was not the best offensive option with Pete Nance, Boo Buie and Chase Audige on the court, or it might have been because Beran was just not hitting his shots.

Starting with the former, the best example is the game at Nebraska when Northwestern ran the Huskers out the door. Beran shot 0-for-4 from the field and had zero points, even though Northwestern was the better team for all 40 minutes. That being said, Buie had arguably his best game of the season, so it makes sense why Beran might have had fewer looks than usual.

Then, there’s the latter. When Northwestern visited Columbus to play Ohio State, Beran shot 0-for-6 from the field. He was getting quality looks, and they were just not going in, which kept the ‘Cats from closing the consistent gap that lasted throughout the contest.

Consistency is something Beran needs to work on. Yes, it’s tough when he technically may not be the most dominant player on the court for the ‘Cats, but there’s nothing stopping him from striving to reach that level.

Offseason Focus

Now, the bigger focus for Robbie this offseason other than consistency is this: his role is going to expand and change with the potential departure of Young. If and when Young leaves Evanston and Nance moves on from the program, Beran will be the lone big that played meaningful minutes last season. This means that either Nicholson and incoming recruit Luke Hunger might get more time, or it will be Beran who gets more time at center.

Northwestern will need to play some elite small ball to keep all of their offensive weapons on the court, and this means a few things for Beran in particular; improve more at the rim like he did last season, whether this is through the drive or the post move, and defensively be that presence in the paint that the ‘Cats need.

The Bottom Line

Beran will be a starter for the ‘Cats come 2022-23 and he will be a reliable starter at that. Sure, he has a lot of things he can work, but Collins has emphasized his work ethic and his willingness improve. Beran will be a senior come next winter, and his role will be increased, hopefully for the benefit of the team at large.