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Northwestern basketball predictions 2014-15

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Here's how we see this season shaping up.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With basketball season upon us and our preview rolling out, it's time for us to make our predictions for how we see the season ending up. It's tough to know exactly what to expect from the young, but talented group, and we may not know for awhile, thanks to a very easy non-conference schedule.

Nevertheless, here are our basketball staff's best guesses at how the season will turn out, as well as their bold predictions for the upcoming year.

Kevin Trahan

Record: 17-14
Conference Record: 6-12
Biggest win: vs. Michigan
Bold Prediction: Northwestern will make the NIT.

The Wildcats probably won't deserve it based on the overall body of work, but they'll ride a weak non-conference schedule and a strong end-of-the-season run into the NIT. It will be a major win in year two under Chris Collins.

Chris Johnson

Record: 15-16
Conference Record: 5-13
Biggest win: Ohio State
Bold Prediction: Northwestern will finish in Kenpom's top 150 in offensive efficiency (it was 309 last season)

If there's a reason to be excited about Northwestern basketball this season, it's the freshmen. Everyone wants to see how Chris Collins' first full recruiting class will perform against Big Ten competition. More specifically, everyone wants to see how good Vic Law is. Another thing to look forward to? Seeing whether Collins can coach Law, his classmates and the rest of NU into a better team than the group that went 14-19 a year ago. Don't expect Northwestern to get in the conversation for an at-large bid, but an NIT berth isn't out of the question.

Josh Rosenblat

Record: 17-14
Conference Record: 7-11
Biggest win: vs. Ohio State/at Nebraska
Bold Prediction: Vic Law makes the Big Ten All-Freshman team

Due to a far easier non-conference schedule, Northwestern will pick up some relatively easy wins before conference play. The conference season, again, will be rough for the Wildcats but through stingy defense and an improvement on the team's dismal shooting from a year ago, they will finish as an above-.500 team for the year.

Henry Bushnell

Record: 16-15
Conference Record: 6-12
Biggest win: vs. Michigan State
Bold Prediction: Northwestern will once again have a top-25 defense

I actually think this season will end up being very similar to last year's. After NU labors through the non-conference schedule, the early season rhetoric about a new, more exciting style will go out the window and Collins will realize that the only way he can win Big Ten games is with an extreme focus on defense. That'll mean ugly games and one or two upsets, but in the end, another bottom-third Big Ten finish.

Jason Dorow

Record: 17-14
Conference Record: 6-12
Biggest win: at Michigan
Bold Prediction: Northwestern wins the Cancun Challenge

The soft non-conference schedule will allow the young Wildcats to get some early victories, including a championship at the Cancun Challenge, and gel before entering the gauntlet that is their Big Ten slate. Collins will rely on the defense again to carry the team as the offense progresses toward the up-tempo attack he envisions. The product on the floor will look different, but the results will be very similar to last season.

Kevin Dukovic

Record: 16-15
Conference Record: 6-12
Biggest win: vs OSU
Bold Prediction: Northwestern will make the CBI

Collins and company will start much stronger than they did last year and enter conference play with no more than three losses. NU will show flashes of a team that has the raw talent to go dancing and will pull off at least one upset win over a relatively vulnerable conference power like MSU, Michigan or Ohio State, but will otherwise struggle to stay afloat in the always brutal Big Ten.

Danny Rapaport

Record: 17-14
Conference Record: 6-12
Biggest win: vs. Michigan State
Bold Prediction: NU will beat a team ranked in the top 25

NU will be a better basketball team than it was last year, but the Big Ten just might be the best conference in the nation this year and each win will be hard-fought and hard to come by. Collins' emphasis on defense will again propel the ‘Cats to having a better defense than offense, but it's going to be tough to win many games after the soft non-conference schedule when you're relying on freshmen as much as NU will be this year.

Josh Burton

Record: 18-13
Conference Record: 8-10
Biggest win: at Michigan State
Bold Prediction: Alex Olah averages a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double

Outside of Butler and maybe Georgia Tech, the Cats' non-conference schedule doesn't provide too many challenges. The Big Ten schedule doesn't get any easier, though, especially without graduated scorer Drew Crawford, but Alex Olah's emergence as a star center will lead to a few upsets here and there and maybe a run. But the conference is too strong for NU to make much noise standings-wise. This won't be the NCAA Tournament bid year.