Season in Review: Northwestern WildcatsPosted by KTrahan on April 17th, 2013
Now that the 2012-13 college basketball season has come to a close, we’re doing a review of each Big Ten team’s season, as well as looking ahead to next year. Today’s team: the Northwestern Wildcats.
It was tough to find much good in Evanston this year, mainly because just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong. This was supposed to be Northwestern’s most talented team ever, but a slew of injuries meant the Wildcats essentially had to play with mostly guards and freshmen all season. The result was a 4-14 Big Ten record. You can’t find much good from that, but there were a few silver linings to the injuries, particularly the development of this year’s freshmen. Those freshmen — center Alex Olah and forward Kale Abrahamson, in particular — were thrown into the mix right away and didn’t have time to adjust with a veteran supporting cast. That led to a rocky start, but the extra experience helped them develop, and their collective improvement showed down the stretch. Olah still needs to work on his defense and he’s limited athletically, but he showed much better instincts in the post and developed as a good passer. Abrahamson was overmatched by his opponents for much of the year, but he too showed an ability to drive to the hoop late in the year to complement solid three-point shooting. Both players have a ways to go, but they have built a solid foundation that will bode well for the future.
… just about everything else. Heading into the year, this was supposed to be NU’s most talented team ever. However, if that didn’t go out the window when guard JerShon Cobb was suspended for the entire season, it certainly did when star forward Drew Crawford suffered a shoulder injury in November and was forced to sit out as well. Just when the Wildcats had seemed to overcome those setbacks to find some success, forward Jared Swopshire — arguably the most important player on the team at that point — was also hit with a major injury. Promising freshman Sanjay Lumpkin redshirted due to injury, Nikola Cerina was hampered by a sprained ankle, and Reggie Hearn even wasn’t 100 percent for most of the season. NU’s injury issues this year were unprecedented, and considering how many players were missing, a 4-14 Big Ten record wasn’t all that surprising.
After failing to make the NCAA Tournament again — though who could blame him under these circumstances — head coach Bill Carmody was fired. NU hired Duke assistant coach Chris Collins, who received rave reviews from nearly everyone in the industry, and brings a new excitement and momentum to the program. In the immediate future, Collins actually has a solid team to work with — again, the “most talented team in NU history.” However, this move was about the long-term future, as Collins excited the fan base with talk of sustained NCAA Tournament success and building a program similar to Duke’s. Of course, that’s just talk, but it’s good for a fan base that needs to be re-energized. Collins hasn’t even filled out his staff yet, but he’s already getting some good recruits on campus for visits. It will be a process, but the consensus is this was a strong hire for the NU program.