This season was a disappointment and there’s no way around it. Northwestern men's basketball was projected to be a top-25 team and ultimately missed March Madness with a sub-.500 record. That being said, Northwestern looks to grow and improve their record with a team that could definitely see the tournament again next year. Northwestern’s biggest addition comes in graduate student Ryan Taylor, who averaged an impressive 21.2 points on 42.1 percent from behind the arc. He comes from the Missouri Valley Conference, which you might know from a little team called the Loyola Ramblers. An experienced addition to the team, Taylor will be great for facilitating ball movement to create open shots, something the Wildcats struggled with all of last season. While it’s tough to watch Rapolas Ivanouskas and Isiah Brown leave, the former was unlikely to see much court time and in many ways Jordan Ash fits more nicely into the offense than the latter. Taylor’s addition alongside three sought-after freshman recruits as well as transfer A.J. Turner should be enough to get the Wildcats above the .500 hump and maybe even lead the team to 20+ wins and a tournament bid.
Out with the old ...
Shreyas IyerIsiah Brown’s departure will immediately put pressure on incoming freshman guard Jordan Lathon. With Scottie Lindsey’s leaving and Jordan Ash’s injury history, Lathon projects to be a primary ballhandler for the ‘Cats next season. Ash and Lathon are the only true point guards on the roster, so developing chemistry among the backcourt will be key for Northwestern to challenge for an NCAA tournament spot. Rapolas Ivanauskas’ situation is more ambiguous; Rap played barely any significant minutes over the past two seasons as his injury history cost him significantly. As a four-star recruit coming out of high school, the talent was definitely there; it’s up to Rap to prove he can stay healthy enough for D-1 ball, wherever he transfers to. It’s hard to say what Northwestern will miss from Rap, since we never really knew what we had with him in the first place.
... In with the new
Northwestern has had an incredibly successful season on the transfer market and it could get even better. While the Wildcats did lose some youth and depth when Brown and Ivanouskas transferred, the incoming recruiting class will be enough to replace them and build for the future. The transfer of Ryan Taylor will provide the spark the Wildcats need to return to playing good offense. Last season they often went long periods of time without scoring because there was not a go-to scorer that could be counted on. Taylor (21.2 PPG) is an electric shooter (42.1 3P%) who can also get the basket. He will re-energize a Wildcats backcourt that struggled with consistency last season. It is also important to note that South Dakota guard Matt Mooney (18.7 PPG) is transferring and has announced Northwestern as one of his top five picks. A Mooney and Taylor backcourt could bring the Wildcats back to the tournament.
The whole package
Basketball’s offseason shakeup can only be seen as a net gain for the program. While there’s a feeling of unfulfilled promise about bench players Isiah Brown (3.9 PPG) and Rapolas Ivanauskas (1.0 REB) departing in June, the addition of Ryan Taylor from Evansville is something to be genuinely excited about. Seeing as the swingman was sought after by over 40 schools, including the likes of Indiana, Miami, and Oregon, Coach Collins should consider himself very lucky to have Taylor on board. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, Taylor talked about what Wildcats fans can expect from him next season: “I’m pretty good coming off of screens, moving without the ball. I’m very unselfish and like to share the ball. I see myself as a really good shooter; I can shoot it from behind the 3 line with midrange and floaters, a little bit of everything.” To see for yourself, check out some of Taylor’s highlights from his last season at Evansville.
Is it November yet?
A new Welsh-Ryan Arena and the son of Larry Nance aren’t the only things to get excited about for Northwestern basketball in 2018-19. Ryan Taylor will give Northwestern a go-to scoring option after the likes of Scottie Lindsey, Bryant McIntosh and Gavin Skelly saw their final season end in disappointment. Taylor will likely bring his 20+ PPG to the wing, where Chris Collins hopes his shot-creation will mesh with Dererk Pardon’s paint presence and Anthony Gaines’ quick, darting style of play. Taylor, who put up a strong case for Player of the Year in the Mountain Valley Conference before losing to Loyola’s Clayton Custer, will look to cut down on his turnovers and adjust to not being the centerpiece of the offense. The loss of Isiah Brown and Rapolas Ivanauskas hurts the depth of this injury-prone roster, but the addition of Taylor and the incoming class should reduce Northwestern’s tendency to live and die (mostly die) by the three.