Northwestern looks set to rebound from last year's 6-16 season.
Just how much better the Tigers will be this season depends on how they play on the defensive end. Last season they gave up 59 or more points 11 times. They gave up 50 or more 14 times and held just one opponent under 44 points.
"We are working feverishly on our ability to defend the paint and to be able to pressure the ball effectively," said fourth-year Northwestern head coach BJ Dugan. "We have struggled to be as hungry on the defensive end of the floor as we have been on the offensive end of the floor. We're certainly capable of being a good defensive team. That will be a telling factor of how our season turns out."
Five seniors return, three of them started last year while the other two played significant varsity minutes.
Northwestern returns senior point guard Sean Nagle, senior shooting guard Kevin Oxley, who can also play the point, and 6-foot-2 senior center Ryan Betz. All three gained starting experience last season.
Senior forward Trevor German and senior guard/forward Garrett Lerner were some of the first players off the bench last season and will likely step into starting spots this season, although Dugan declined to name his starters.
"We have some experience from a core of guys that played last year," said Dugan. "Then we have the need for depth. We don't have a lot of players who have played varsity minutes outside of those five guys."
The rest of the roster includes several players who dressed for varsity games but saw limited action last season, most of which played JV. They are guards Dylan Roth and Dalton Conway, guard/forward Andrew Roth and forward Greg Collopy.
Junior forward/center Toby Koenig returns to basketball after not playing as a sophomore.
Newcomers to the varsity will be senior forward Kyle Wagner, junior center Shelby Storm and senior exchange student Koen De Bruijn.
The Tigers should have a well-rounded team. Nagle is an experienced point guard. Oxley is a very good shooter. Lerner is athletic and could be a match up problem for opposing teams. German, another solid athlete, should be able to get inside to score and rebound. Betz might be undersized against the league's bigger players, but will make up for it with muscle.
"There are a lot of reasons for us to believe we can compete with anyone else in the league," Dugan said. "We have a good inside outside mix. We're not particularly tall. We're scrappy. We certainly get after the ball and compete."
The Tigers played in the Allentown Summer League and the Stellar Tournament over the summer. They held their own against some of the Lehigh Valley's big school teams, which gives them confidence heading into the Colonial League season.