Anyone who knows anything about Northwestern basketball certainly is aware of the program's, sad, defining fact: The Wildcats never have participated in the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats are the only BCS program for which that is true, and despite some recent close calls — and rotten luck — under the Bill Carmody regime, they still remain an outsider to the sport's preeminent event.
That brings us to first-year coach Chris Collins. The son of legendary coach Doug Collins and a long-time Duke assistant, Collins enjoys as fine a pedigree as one could have entering into his first head coaching job. And he obviously understands the importance and challenge of recruiting to Northwestern, and particularly in Chicago given the difficult terrain there due to the school's academics and other factors.
And that preamble explains why Vic Law is so important to the program. It's not often that the Wildcats gain a top-100 commitment, and Law not only is gifted — he's proven. He emerged within Chicago as a sophomore and lit up the stage during his junior season at the famed Hoop Hall event. There, he scored 17 points and added 19 rebounds to firmly establish himself a national-level recruit.
His scholarship offer then arrived. Northwestern (under Carmody) extended a grant this past January, drawing immediate high marks from Law: "You're not going to get an academic and historic atmosphere like Northwestern anywhere else," he told PurpleWildcats.com's Jeremy Woo.
But the scene went dark when the Wildcats made their coaching change. How would Collins and the new staff make up the lost ground? By April, he claimed offers from Florida State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, VCU, Providence, Loyola, Xavier, Dayton and Illinois, among others, to accompany Northwestern and making the Wildcats' assignment all the more difficult.
But an unofficial visit to campus in June helped solidify his opinion. He committed to the Wildcats in early July, just before the onset of the live evaluation period. Representing Northwestern at every turn, he impressed at the Reebok Breakout Classic and maintained four-star status through the remainder of summer.
Law consistently knocked in jump shots during our viewings. He boasts admirable mechanics, a smooth release and range to 22 feet. He's comfortable spotting up from deep but also excels in the longer, medium-range areas. His ability to shoot off curls and two-dribble pullups enhances his versatility.
He's also a fine student of the game, not surprising for a Northwestern-bound recruit. He embraces team basketball and appears to thrive in structure, which he'll experience in far greater proportions than he ever would on the grassroots travel circuit.
He's also a fine handler and passer for the wing, and at 6-7 he's tall enough to contribute on the glass. His athleticism ranks above-average as well, making him a solid all-around player.
Law definitely needs to gain strength and to become more physical on both ends of the court. At times, he plays the role of finesse wing, when he's capable of more. The tools are there and he doesn't appear to be naturally weak, however, so with time his body should fill out and a more muscular style should emerge along with it.
The other primary criticism may be that he's a blending, complementary player for the high-major level, not a dominant one. He isn't a great shot-creator and instead relies on opportunities to avail themselves, and while a pretty good athlete he won't be among the Big Ten elites in that regard.
Make no mistake: Law would be a good pickup for any collegiate program. He's likely to produce right away and over time — with some good breaks — could prove to be an all-league performer.
His commitment to Northwestern made significant noise in recruiting because of that school's rare appearances high on the prospect board, and his pledge indicates a potential shift in the Wildcats' historical luck.