Five Thoughts: Northwestern-Lewis

Some thoughts on Nikola Cerina, Kale Abrahamson's burial and the point guard depth.

Take everything with a grain of salt. Exhibitions are tough to analyze, but tonight, there were some interesting takeaways.

— Nikola Cerina looks like the type of player that always separated Northwestern from NCAA Tournament contention. The Wildcats desire that true rebounder with solid defensive fundamentals, and in significant action, Cerina demonstrated both of those qualities. The redshirt senior had eight rebounds in his first seven minutes of action, and made some excellent plays in help defense. Someone asked during the press conference whether we might see Cerina and Alex Olah in the same lineup. Collins admitted this could happen, and I'm responding with an emphatic: "Yes!" Against sizeable Big Ten players, NU might need serious help on the interior. The (essentially) four-guard rotation can work in these exhibitions, though the bulk of conference season should illuminate necessary adjustments.

— Man, Kale Abrahamson was buried — playing only three minutes in the win. Collins, in a minor surprise, seems comfortable playing only eight this year. I find it extremely hard to believe that Abrahamson, a fairly effective three-point shooter in his freshman year, can't contribute more than Tre Demps. Without the same athleticism or offensive polish as Nate Taphorn, Abrahamson was an adequate rebounder and made 35 percent of his three-point tries. Because they'll frequently be underdogs, the Wildcats could use some perimeter threats (or anything but Demps out there). Perhaps it's too soon to gauge, though three minutes seems awfully insufficient for Kale.

— I'm bullish on Sanjay Lumpkin this year, even if he never scores. He has minimal offensive skill–or so it seems–and relies on some basic dribble-drives. That doesn't matter, because on Wednesday night, he was absolutely everywhere. Despite some sloppy play that led to turnovers, Lumpkin stood out with his surprising rebounding ability and comfortable on-ball defense. He did look the part of "glue guy," as Collins proclaimed this week. Lumpkin should hold the fifth starter's role this season, and if this were an audition, he'd certainly have passed. NU's defensive nucleus might be fairly impressive barring regression or injuries.

— No, I'm not sold on Cobb as the second ball-handler or backup point guard. You can't simply plug anyone into the role and expect success. There were some nice, fleeting moments with Cobb and Demps in the backcourt, but keep the opponent in mind. It also hurts the very basic offensive structure of this team with Cobb on-ball. He's going to need consistently strong offensive performances, and much of those will arrive from him flying off screens, hitting the occasional triple and driving the lane. Even his transition game worked. I'm not overreacting to one sloppy game from Dave Sobolewski. Aside from the poor shooting, he looked fine. The position might never be among the team's strengths, but there's no need to force Cobb into the position for more than five or six minutes per game.

— Nate Taphorn, that was terrific. I used him in my lede, primarily for the "surprise hook" but also because he deserved the recognition. It's about the little things: He communicates exceptionally well, tries hard in every sense of the word and looks very aware on offense. He's exciting to watch, especially when you consider he'll be around for four years. If he can work around the defensive inconsistency and guard better, we're looking at a future NU standout — more in the mold of John Shurna than anyone we've seen in some time. Also, he scored 10 points on only three field-goal attempts. Guy needs to shoot more. Other than that, I'm without complaint. This exhibition looked sloppy, but it exposed more good than bad. Taphorn was the perfect example.


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