Olah takes next step in final stretch

Alex Olah should be praised for his strong end to the season, stoking expectations for him next year.

For much of the season, there has been a large contingent—possibly a majority—of Northwestern basketball fans online demanding that Alex Olah become an integral part of the offense. They've likely been delighted over the last three games, with Olah averaging of 17 points on 67 percent shooting, adding eight rebounds and two blocks a night. Those numbers aggregated over a full season would make him an all-conference play and potential star. Though we certainly should not expect those numbers to become the norm for Olah, we also cannot ignore the explosion in his production.

I have often been critical of Olah's limited offensive game this season, at least in the context of making him a primary option. However, he has displayed an arsenal of moves with notable breadth in recent games. He hit a running lefty hook in the lane against Penn State that was one of the best post moves I've ever seen a Northwestern player make—and a shot that most centers don't possess.

He looks more confident with the ball in his hands in motion, and while he still needs to significantly speed up his decision-making on the block, he has been stronger there, too. Olah has the beginnings of a post game of some repute, and as a sophomore has significant time to develop it.

Olah still doesn't rebound enough. In fact, his per minute rebounding numbers have barely improved from his freshman season. But he doubled his block total and steadily improved as a rim protector through the season, which helps to cover up his rebounding woes. Olah's rebounding struggles do have a feedback effect, though, as it forces players like Sanjay Lumpkin, Drew Crawford and Jershon Cobb to rebound much more.

This makes it even harder for the team to get out in transition, and forces scorers to expend valuable energy and risk fouls on a team with no depth. Hopefully next season Olah's rebounding will be less of a problem as the team has more pieces to work with, but it is the area with the most room for impactful improvement in his game.

Alex Olah turned himself into a serviceable offensive center in the Big Ten. Even if he doesn't get any better defending or rebounding, that makes him better than the big man options Northwestern has seen in recent years, and makes him worthy of minutes. I'm not sure Olah is athletic or ferocious enough to become a great rebounder, and it's entirely possible that we have seen him hit the ceiling of his offensive game. Alex Olah isn't going to be a 17-and-8 player, but we could certainly see him improve his numbers at the same clip he did this year (three more points, one more rebound per game). Olah's been probably the only bright spot in a dismal end to the season. Hopefully, he can be one of many bright spots in a successful campaign next year.


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