When experience disappears

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Michael Thompson is now "the guy" in terms of experience on the Wildcats.

Note: This is the first in a regularly recurring series of statistically based posts that will be published each Monday morning. Yeah, I know, heady stuff early in the week... Eh. Bear with me and you'll see some interesting trends. Also, for something a bit lighter check out the Chicago City Rankings, coming this afternoon.

You might need a refresher about tempo-free stats for this post. If that's the case you can check out the Glossary, or this excellent post on The Only Colors (regrettably a Michigan State blog).

Northwestern was supposed to be a very experienced team this season. Why? Because the Wildcats had all but Craig Moore (and Sterling Williams) returning to a squad that went 17-14 and lost in the first round of the NIT. Sure, the theory went, Moore took (and made) a lot of shots while at Northwestern, but the Wildcats would be fine with all the other players they'd have back.

Little did anyone know that the injury bug was about to strike and now Northwestern looks considerably greener. There are veterans on the court, like Jeremy Nash and Ivan Peljusic, but neither of those players contributed very much last season in tangible terms. In fact without Coble, Moore, Williams and Nash more than 47 percent of Northwestern's total possessions from last season are gone.

And that makes the Wildcats a very young team.
If you simply multiply the percent of minutes played by the percent of possessions used, you can get a feel for how dependent an offense was on a player last season, and also the overall team balance. John Gasaway has some excellent insights about this in his Major Conference Preview. Last season Northwestern had four players use more than 10 percent of the team's total minutes * possessions. They were:

  1. Kevin Coble - 21.7%
  2. Craig Moore - 19.6%
  3. Michael Thompson - 16.1%
  4. John Shurna - 11.4%

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, those two guys at the top of the list won't be playing in purple and white anytime soon. Of course, there are players on Northwestern's roster that are expected to fill up the possessions void. Now is the time for Luka Mirkovic and Kyle Rowley to step up. This a great opportunity for the both of them. Also, Shurna's percentage of the offense and minutes was sure to rise during his sophomore season, now the question is just, how high will it go?

And then there's Nash. On Friday against Northern Illinois Nash became something he'd never been at Northwestern, a focal point of the offense. He responded brilliantly. Considering Northwestern's lack of depth on the perimeter Nash and Thompson should play a ton of minutes. Nash's senior season could be a special one, in that it's exceptionally rare for players to make a leap from their junior to senior seasons.

As an aside, I didn't mention Drew Crawford here. I think he has enough responsibility just playing defense, rebounding and keeping the offense moving. Crawford wasn't brought in to be an elite scorer his freshman season and it's not a role he should have to fill. Especially considering his trend of early foul trouble, Crawford should just focus on staying on the court.

It's a new season in Evanston and one that - surprisingly - is all about fresh faces and fresh starts.

Update: I wrote this post before I saw the aforementioned Gasaway's take on the situation.

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