Tough minutes decisions ahead

In the season-opener against Texas Southern, Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody utilized many options from his team's deep bench. Moving forward, he'll have to make some difficult decisions.

Bill Carmody keeps insisting that he needs to figure out the playing rotation.

Problem is, some guys refuse to make his job any easier.

This season, the opening games are taking on additional importance. With newfound depth at several positions, Carmody has to decide on the guys he trusts moving forward.

In a somewhat surprising move, he burned the redshirt of 7-2 unpolished center Chier Ajou. Then, Kale Abrahamson took the floor and put on his audition.

During a preseason press conference last Monday, Carmody failed to offer any words about Abrahamson. Although the freshman clearly holds a promising future, some considered his development slightly behind pace.

Shortly after Abrahamson entered, he committed a careless turnover. But then he caught his stride.

Abrahamson poured in 15 points, all of which came in the second half. He hauled in four rebounds, limited his mistakes to the lone turnover and played with impressive confidence. On one occasion, he simply lined up, stared down his defender and drained a triple – one of his three on the night.

Abrahamson hardly looked the part of the anxious freshman. Carmody admitted he did need to calm down at times, but with that sort of efficiency, he will be hard-pressed to complain.

The Texas Southern win is not a clear indicator of how this season expects to unfold. Still, with this many new players, it helps to leave an impression. Abrahamson, once on the outside looking in, did just that.

The list goes on. The two-guard entered the season as a position to watch. With major talents in Reggie Hearn, Alex Marcotullio and Tre Demps battling, the situation has gained little clarity.

Marcotullio makes hustle plays befitting a senior. Demps continues to provide an offensive spark, and interestingly enough, led the team with 27 minutes. Hearn, the steadying influence, added a quiet nine points and trademark defense.

Simply put, it's not getting any easier for Carmody to make decisions. Dave Sobolewski has locked up the vast majority of point guard minutes. After that, tough to guess.

Then, in the frontcourt, Northwestern fans are already singing the praises of aggressive center Alex Olah.

In an interview with me two weeks ago, Olah essentially called out his predecessors for their milquetoast play on offense. Every time Olah touches the ball, it seems he shoots. And no one, at least yet, should be complaining about that.

After Olah, who's next? Do the Wildcats go small and play with Jared Swopshire and Nikola Cerina? Will either Abrahamson or Sanjay Lumpkin see minutes at the same time as Crawford?

Perhaps this upcoming season will provide the greatest test for Bill Carmody. It seems hard to envision this team making the NCAA Tournament with a motley crew that includes just four returning players. But this team hardly resembles those of old.

Carmody has a surprising number of players to work with. Last year, the story was completely different. NU beat Illinois on the road with six players. Literally, six. Now, he may be rolling the dice on 11 guys to deliver significant contributions. With the confidence and energy some guys played with on Tuesday, it seems like a distinct possibility.

For the Cats, the cliché rings true. There are more questions than answers.

But this year, that might not be such a bad thing.

Follow on Twitter: @NicholasMedline

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