Northwestern still needs work

The young basketball season has proved thus far that Northwestern is far from a finished product, and that was never more evident than in a 20-point loss to Maryland. PurpleWildcats offers five takeaways from the early portion of the campaign.

Mike Turner was once on the outside looking in. Now, Northwestern needs him.

Just like the Illinois State game, Mike Turner showed flashes of his potential. With Alex Olah's stamina and defensive ability under question, Turner has been forced to step in and see significant action. Despite his extremely small size for a center, Turner fared admirably on the defensive end. Though he struggled – like everyone – in the rebounding department on Tuesday, he has solid technique. The offensive game needs to come along. He is known for a solid mid-range game, but that has yet to show.

While a great deal of attention surrounds Olah and several newcomers, the redshirt freshman Turner has generally exceeded expectations. His performances have been uneven, at least so far. Without much frontcourt depth, though, Bill Carmody will call Turner's name throughout the season.

The bench cannot be trusted.

In our first video of the young basketball season, I suggested two things. The first was that this team might have to deal with an 11-man rotation. The second was that Tre Demps could easily average double figures this season. Both appear to be completely off target. It is not only marks another loss for my already terrible ability at making predictions, but also a poor sign for this team looking forward.

The bench finished with 2-of-16 shooting for seven points. Demps was held scoreless and continued his struggles from behind the arc. While the starting lineup boasts a great deal of talent, NU will look for production from its backups in Big Ten play. I have no doubt Kale Abrahamson, Demps, and senior Alex Marcotullio will settle down after tonight's humbling loss. The return of Nikola Cerina cannot arrive quickly enough. But right now, Carmody has to be nervous using his bench.

Dave Sobolewski has improved.

This team received at least one positive sign in a generally dismal performance: it confirmed that Dave Sobolewski entered his sophomore year a much better player. While almost every NU player struggled mightily, Sobolewski appeared composed. It was certainly an imperfect performance, but he demonstrated excellent shot selection and noticeable composure.

His defense has also improved. The Jose Calderon style of play worked well enough for him last season. This year, though, the sophomore has improved technique. It will never be a strength for him. Still, the team needs his steadying influence and increased offensive production. And he was the best player for Northwestern on Tuesday night. That speaks to his abilities as a player.

Jared Swopshire will not save the team.

Swopshire is talented on both sides of the basketball. His teammates speak highly of him at every opportunity – a sign of his leadership. Something did not click tonight, and his largely absent performance hurt the team.

First, he checked out of the game with two quick fouls. The officiating crew called a tight game, and Swopshire failed to adjust. The Cats went to a very small four-guard lineup and were promptly dominated by big men Alex Len and Charles Mitchell. Early fouls are forgivable, but Cats fans were left wanting more. He attempted just three shots, and finished with only four points and four rebounds. I have a list of reservations regarding Swopshire. He might not have the strength to drive the lane against larger opponents. We don't have a large enough sample size from the fifth-year senior to judge his potential impact.

This might be off base. He might prove me wrong. Although Swopshire brings a great deal to this team, he definitely has room for improvement. NU will need to maximize its potential, and some of that starts with him.

The problems of last year are the problems of this year.

Luka Mirkovic and Davide Curletti left the program considered to be two players who never used their size as an advantage. Both centers struggled to haul in rebounds consistently. With new faces in the low post, NU went up against a team with several tall big men. The final statistic was shocking. NU was outrebounded 47-19 – a product of two awful halves on the glass.

Len, a future NBA lottery selection, posed a formidable challenge. That much is true. But NU has shown little sign of improving its past rebounding woes. As Sobolewski pointed out after the game, it marks a poor collective effort. The Cats need rapid improvement in that area if they hope to make a tournament run. After the blowout, that's something hard to even think of.

Follow on Twitter: @NicholasMedline

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