NEWCOMERS

Jordan Ash is a 6’2″ combo guard who was a HS teammate of Nebraska recruit Glynn Watson. He’s not considered to be quite at Watson’s level as a prospect but this was still an impressive get for NU…they beat out Purdue among others for Ash. He’s a physical, relatively athletic guard who is good going to the rim and is a streaky jumpshooter. Improved consistency with his shot will help him earn an even bigger role. For now I’d expect him to see time at both guard positions off the bench. He’s not a natural point guard but should be good enough to provide 8-10 minutes of decent relief for McIntosh, and then he’ll spend the rest of his time off the ball.

Derek Pardon is a 6’8″ 220lbs power forward out of Cleveland, for whom NU beat out Pitt among others. He projects as a role player type but a good one, perhaps a level better than NU has typically had at their disposal. He’s not a great athlete nor is he a tremendously skilled post player as of yet but he has size, physicality and a willingness to mix it up. Northwestern can find a use for that kind of player. He fits the pattern of Collins recruits in that he plays with an aggressive mindset and that should help him be an effective contributor in time, maybe even this year in a limited way.

Aaron Falzon is a 6’7″ combo forward who was very sought after, as he had offers from the likes of Georgia, Notre Dame and Providence. He projects as a more complete version of Taphorn, in that he too is a great perimeter shooter with size, but they think Falzon has the potential to develop a bit more physically and thus be able to stay on the floor longer because he’ll be able to do more things. Anytime you can shoot, you have a chance to play, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Falzon earn some immediate minutes. How he develops physically will tell the tale in terms of whether he remains a role player or emerges as something more.

Collins still has feelers out around a handful of HS players and transfer possibilities to fill his final available slot but it wouldn’t be surprising if these 12 players are the roster for 15-16 when it’s all said and done. There’s no immediate screaming need positionally…they could always use another big body or perhaps more of a true second point guard than Ash, but these aren’t urgent issues to solve IMO.

OVERALL – I think the trend is clearly “up” for this program. When you look at a potential starting five of McIntosh, Demps, Law, Van Zegeren and Olah, that’s a good, solid Big Ten group. You’ve got size and proven production inside, you have an athlete with some size on the wing in Law, and then two athletic, dynamic and aggressive guards. You can win with players like that.

I’m not going off the deep end, though. Northwestern’s depth, while improved, still can’t match the best teams in this conference. Even the starting lineup, while solid, doesn’t have the star power you see in places like East Lansing, Bloomington or College Park. It’s a start, though. Collins is entering year three and he’s made this roster over in his own image. Yes, he still has some guys like Olah, Demps and Lumpkin who were recruited under the previous regime but by and large, this is now his program and you can see the improvement in terms of athleticism, talent and mindset.

It’s too bad for Northwestern’s sake that the league is as deep as it is this year. There have certainly been seasons where I’d look at a team with their profile and think 5th or 6th was a possibility, but given the league’s depth, I don’t think they can pull that off this season. I don’t rule out an NCAA bid…they have enough of the necessary pieces to pull it off if more things break the right way for them. I just won’t predict that it happens. More realistically, I think they can set their sights on winning maybe a game or two more in the league than they have over the past two seasons and push toward a winning overall record and an NIT bid. They will not be an easy opponent for anyone to play this year, though.