Having 10 senior players was a luxury for Northwestern's basketball team last season.

Having only a few varsity players returning this season is the price the Tigers will have to pay for that luxury.

That 10-person senior class included the team's top five scorers last season as well as all of the team's regular starters.

This season four seniors, eight juniors and a couple sophomores make up the team's opening day roster.

"We have a lot of shoes to fill, a lot of playing time to fill with guys that haven't played before," said head coach BJ Dugan. "Our best basketball will probably be played in February because we'll be getting better every opportunity we have."

Returning seniors Andrew Rivera, Dylan Roth and Shelby Storm saw varsity playing time last season.

Rivera averaged 3.4 points per game. He was limited by ankle injury and missed a few games. Heading into his third year on the varsity team, he's Northwestern's most experienced player.

"Our seniors this year have to show a lot of leadership skills because we have a lot of young kids," Rivera said.

Roth averaged just under 2 points per game last season and Storm played in just a few games. Northwestern went 10-12 overall and 7-9 in the Colonial League last year.

The rest of the varsity roster is made up of players that are up from junior varsity as well as some players that have been away from the game for a year or two.

They are senior Luis Rivera; juniors Matt Maher, Ben Snyder, Ty Cunningham, Payton Bachman, Jeremy Ettl, David Dorney, Matt Rivera and Talon Williams; and sophomores Jared Binder and Ty Richardson.

With so many new players, starting positions are up for grabs.

"We don't have guys that are considerably ahead of other guys for positions," said Dugan. "That creates competition on a daily basis, which is exactly what you want.

"That promotes great practices. Guys come to practice more fired up. We've had great practices so far."

One thing the Tigers have is size. Binder is 6-foot-5, while Storm and Maher are both 6-3 and Ben Snyder is 6-2.

"We're going to focus on protecting the paint and rebounding the basketball," said Dugan. "When you have guys with the physical strength we have inside, that's something we're going to rely on heavily. And I think that we're going to be able to use that size on the offensive end of the floor too."

The Tigers will employ a different offensive philosophy this season. Last year, with the school's all-time leading three-point shooter in Kevin Oxley, as well as several other jump shooters, the goal was to hit some outside shots to loosen up the defense.

This year Northwestern will go inside first and when the defenses start crashing down on the post players, they will kick it out for open shots.

While the Tigers lack experience, they have versatility in that several players can play more than one position.

"We go into the season with a lot of question marks," said Dugan. "But a lot of guys can fill a lot of different holes."

"Every day we come out and get after it in practice," said Andrew Rivera. "If we continue to work hard I think we'll be good. I think we'll surprise some teams."