Wednesday night, the Jackets hit the road for the second time this season, looking for a different result than they got on their trip to Knoxville. Tech will be traveling to Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois to take on the Northwestern Wildcats as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Northwestern currently sits at 5-1 on the season with their lone loss coming to Fresno State (a sneaky good mid major this season) in the first round of the Wooden Legacy tournament. The Wildcats are most recently coming off of a 79-57 beat-down of Utah, a game which was also part of the Wooden Legacy tournament.
Northwestern head coach Chris Collins is entering his sixth season at the helm of the Wildcats. After two straight tournament appearances, Northwestern disappointed last season. Now, a year later, this season could play a major role in Collins’ future in Evanston. Unfortunately however, Northwestern was picked by the media in the preseason to finish twelfth in the conference out of fourteen teams.
Why the low expectations? The Wildcats lost their floor general and leader in Bryant McIntosh as well as their leading scorer Scottie Lindsey, both to graduation. McIntosh averaged just over 12 points per game and was among the leaders in the country in assist rate, while Lindsey averaged over 15 points per game. Replacing their production this year will not be easy.
So far, as was predicted before the season began, the Wildcats have looked to senior front-court partners Vic Law and Dererk Pardon to fill that gap. Law has stepped up the most, averaging almost 19 points per game and doing it from all over the court. He’s hitting 46% of his overall field goals, including an outstanding 45% from behind the arc and 81% from the charity stripe. Pardon is doing his part as well, nearly averaging a double-double on the season at just over 12 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game. The most impressive part of Pardon’s production may be that he is doing it with a 66% field goal percentage.
Other contributors for Northwestern include Boston College transfer A.J. Turner and grad transfer Ryan Taylor, who comes to the Wildcats from Evansville. Both players are contributing double digit scoring and over 30 minutes per game.
After these four core players, there is a significant drop-off, both in minutes and scoring. Six other players have played in every game so far, though none of them are averaging more than five points per game. Expect the Jackets game plan to attempt to neutralize Northwestern’s key contributors and force their secondary players to step up.
This is the second season in a row the Jackets will be taking on Northwestern as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten challenge. A season ago, Tech took down the Wildcats on a Tadric Jackson buzzer beater, in spite of a double-double from Pardon and 18 points from McIntosh.
The game will be televised on ESPNU at will tip at 9:15pm ET.