In-depth Look at Vanderbilt's 1st Round NCAA Tournament Opponent

Vanderbilt is set to face off with the Northwestern Wildcats in the 1st round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, tomorrow tipping off at 3:30 pm Central. The Wildcats is the West Region's No. 8 seed and is making their 1st ever NCAA Tourney appearance. DoresDaily gives you an in-depth preview of the Wildcats and some info worth knowing headed into tomorrow's contest.

Northwestern Wildcats

Head Coach: Chris Collins  Asst. Coaches: Patrick Baldwin, Brian James, Armon Gates

Season Record: 23-11 (10-8)  *Big 10 Conference*

Location: Evanston, Illinois  Colors: Purple & White

NCAA Appearances: None  NIT Appearances: Seven

Season Analysis

Northwestern is easily having their best season ever on the basketball court after making it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program's history. The Wildcats are coached by fourth year man Chris Collins. The former Duke point guard has done a nice job of turning the Northwestern program into a Big 10 contender and possible annual competitor in the NCAA Tourney. Collins has done a good job of recruiting the type of players that fit Northwestern but also have a blue collar work ethic to bring the program up in stature.

This Northwestern team had a good balance on their schedule this season where they challenged themselves in the non-conference part of things but also finished with a winning record in the Big 10 conference. The Wildcats biggest non-conference win came on the road at Dayton where Northwestern won a hard fought game, 67-64. They also picked up solid wins over Wake Forest, New Orleans (Both teams made the NCAA Tourney) and a neutral court victory over Texas. Northwestern came close in other non-conference games but fell to the likes of Butler and Notre Dame, Coach Collins challenged his team in the non-conference schedule, which prepared them for Big 10 play.

The Big 10 conference put seven teams in the NCAA Tournament this year with Northwestern being one of them. The Wildcats went 10-8 overall in the BIg 10 but only went 3-6 against the other six teams that made it to the Big Dance. Northwestern's biggest conference win was a 66-59 road win at Wisconsin. The Badgers got revenge on the Wildcats in the Big 10 Tourney with a 76-48 victory. It was a competitive year in the Big 10 where Northwestern held their own but still couldn't crack into the upper echelon of the conference. Finishing with a winning record, making it to the semifinals of the Big 10 Tourney while having a team of players who should all return next season, is a big step in the maturation of the Northwestern basketball program. 

The Players

PG Bryant McIntosh  - 6'3 190 - Jr (Team Captain) - mpg: 34.1, ppg: 14.4, apg: 5.2, rpg: 2.7, FT%: .86, 3-pt%: .29

- Team leader and point guard, McIntosh is the engine that runs the team. Heady, high basketball IQ and a hard worker.

G/F Scottie Lindsay - 6'5 210 - Jr - mpg: 30.5, ppg: 14.2, apg: 2.3, rpg: 3.8, FT%: .84, 3-pt%: .32

- Lindsay is their top versatile player who can score in many ways. Also strong defender who has dealt with injuries.

Vic Law - 6'7 205 - RS Soph - mpg: 31.9, ppg: 12.4, apg: 1.7, rpg: 5.7, FT%: .78, 3-pt%: .39

- The Wildcats rely a lot on Law. The lefty can step outside for three or drive to the basket. Also can defend well while blocking shots.

F/C Derek Pardon - 6'8 235 - Soph - mpg: 30.7, ppg: 8.5, apg: 1.2, rpg: 8.0, FT%: .51, 3-pt%: .000

- Pardon is the Wildcats brusier and big man inside. Top rebounder and wide body who carves out space down low.

G/F Sanjay Lumpkin - 6'6 220 - Sr - mpg: 27.6, ppg: 6.1, apg: 1.4, rpg: 5.6, FT%: .68, 3-pt%: .31

- One of two senior's on the Wildcats plays the swiss army knife role. Solid defender, good rebounder, can do a bit of everything.

Gavin Skelly - 6'8 220 - Jr - mpg: 18.2, ppg: 6.1, apg: 1.4, rpg: 3.7, FT%: .78, 3-pt%: .30

- Skelley spells Law off the bench and provides solid minutes playing inside/out. Can hit the three and is good at the line.

Isiah Brown - 6'2 175 - Fr - mpg: 15.4, ppg: 6.7, apg: 1.2, rpg: 1.2, FT%: .78, 3-pt%: .33

Brown could be the next star at Northwestern. Quick scoring guard has speed and can score in bunches. 

F Nathan Taphorn - 6'7 215 - Sr - mpg: 12.3, ppg: 4.5, apg: 0.7, rpg: 1.5, FT%: .81, 3-pt%: .45

- This senior doesn't see many minutes but when he is in, he can drop it from deep quickly. Probably best pure shooter on the team.

Others to Watch: Fr (C) Barret Benson, Soph (G) Jordan Ash

Team Analysis

Northwestern is much like Vanderbilt in several ways. Both teams run a motion style offense and like to spread the court. Both play switching style defense that depends on good communication. They are a veteran team that has spent a lot of time on the court together, that is led by junior point guard Bryant McIntosh. The Indiana native, who was recruited by Vanderbilt, is the team captain and the match that strikes the fire for the entire team. His leadership skills are outstanding and his feel for the game is beyond his years. McIntosh is more of a driver and passer than an outside shooter. Not saying he can't drop it from deep but he is more prone to take you off the dribble and try to score while getting to the line. His 86% shooting from the foul line ranks at the top of the Big 10 conference. 

McIntosh may be the engine but his counterparts are equally important. Scottie Lindsay is a dangerous scorer who works the court in multiple ways. He can take you to the hole or step out and drop three's. His physical body allows him to create contact and get to the line at ease. Lindsay has dealt with some injuries but appears good to go for the Tourney. Vic Law is another double digit scoring Wildcat who possesses versatility, size, length and the ability to play inside/out. Law is a good outside shooter and from the left handed side of things, his shot is sometimes hard to stop. He is also a willing rebounder who will be active around the rim. Derek Pardon is the Wildcats center and he may not be the tallest but he does a great job of using his body to his advantage and can be very hard to handle on the boards. His inclusion into the lineup has given the Wildcats an interior presence who gains them rebounds but also alters shots with his long arms. 

Two seniors in Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn put in good minutes for Wildcats with Lumpkin being the guy who has been through many battles and is poised to help lead his team to a NCAA victory. Lumpkin is a physical small forward who is the Wildcats tough, gritty guy that is willing to do anything it takes to help the team win. Taphorn doesn't score a whole lot but what he does is shoot the three at a high percentage. His ability to come in off the bench and knock down the three is a good trait to have when called upon. Another veteran big man who can step out and shoot is junior Gavin Skelly. The 6'8 forward is another dual guy who can bang on the inside but also step out and shoot from three. Skelly gives the Wildcats a good 18 minutes per game and allows guys like Law and Pardon to take breaks. The bench guy to keep an eye on is true freshman Isiah Brown. The Seattle native is a scoring dynamo who yes only averages 6.7 points per game but does it in only 15.4 minutes per game. When he comes into the game, Brown gives the Wildcats a lightning quick guard who can score with a quickness. Brown is a good backup and change of pace to McIntosh. 

Defensively, the Wildcats hold their opponents to under 70 points per game and play a base man to man defense that switches on ball screens. Each player does a good job of communicating with each other. Law and Lindsday are considered their top defenders but don't overlook McInstosh as the Wildcats point guard can handle himself quite well. Northwestern runs about eight deep on their rotation while Commodores have a total of nine players on their roster. The Wildcats are the deeper team and can play a more aggressive style if need be. 

Northwestern is a quality team that has earned this opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. They are a well coached team that is disciplined, smart and more athletic than given credit for. The matchup with Vanderbilt is interesting due to a lot of similarities between the two teams. Both want to spread the court on offense while playing stout man to man on defense. Northwestern will not be pushover by any means. They are a sound ball team that even if down in the game, will continue to battle until the final whistle. 

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