Collins would be wise to play Sobolewski

Steven Goldstein writes that it's time for Dave Sobolewski to return to the Northwestern lineup.

By now, everyone following Northwestern basketball is familiar with Dave Sobolewski's precipitous fall. It's one of few blemishes for a program on the upswing; one that makes the promotional posters branding him as team captain and the face of a new culture look outdated.

As a freshman, Sobolewski was one of the most efficient point guards in the Big Ten, averaging more than 35 minutes a night for a Wildcats team with national relevance. Last season, he saw his shooting percentage dip south of 39, while turnovers increased by .5 per game. Now, floundering out of the Princeton, the turnovers have reached a career high, while Sobolewski's .255 clip from the field is somehow more flattering than his offense has actually looked.

Sobolewski's played just 11 minutes in four games since returning from a concussion Jan. 25. He didn't play at all in Northwestern's upset win over Wisconsin, and he failed to log a single minute again in Saturday's loss to Nebraska. He's not exactly deserving of significant playing time either, given the precautions necessary after a head injury and the resurgence of Tre Demps.

But Thursday, in a game where the Cats are expected to lose by double-digits, Chris Collins would be wise to give Dave Sobolewski at least 15 minutes. Northwestern's postseason hopes were all but dashed with Saturday's loss, and without a legitimate point guard, the offense remains to be the worst in the conference.

Sobolewski stressed the bond he quickly forged with Collins throughout the offseason. He pointed to Collins' motivational abilities during nonconference play, and again when Sobolewski was shelved with the concussion. Now, after miraculously making this team competitive and already scooping five Big Ten wins, Chris Collins can accomplish one more remarkable feat in 2014: the reclamation of his once-thriving point guard.

Michigan State has had its trouble matching up with true point guards. Sunday, the Spartans allowed Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson go for eight assists and the game-winning jumper. One game prior, Penn State's Tim Frazier scored 22. With Keith Appling sidelined for Thursday's game, and with nothing else to lose, Collins could deploy Sobolewski to slowly rebuild confidence. It would help stagger minutes and keep Tre Demps and Jershon Cobb fresh.

Collins would also be wise to adjust Sobolewski's game. He's currently averaging 6.1 shots per game, which is at least 4.1 shots too many, and is taking a shot about once every four minutes of playing time — a mark higher than Drew Crawford's and Alex Olah's. Reintroducing Sobolewski as a pass-first, pass-second player at the top of the key will be a good gage of how this group could look with a starting-caliber point guard next year in Bryant McIntosh.

The team has nothing to lose, and Sobolewski's seemingly lost it all.


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