Handing Out Grades: Northwestern Wildcats Midway Through The Big Ten Season

By michaelcronin
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Man I hated waiting for my report card in school. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t that smart or just didn’t want to be burdened. I don’t know frankly.

However, I do like handing them out! I feel so powerful!

Without further ado, here’s Professor Cronin’s grades for the Northwestern Wildcats midway through the Big Ten season.



Dave Sobolewski (A-): Sobo is such an interesting player. He’s improved his three point shooting, has really taken a leadership role and is a very underrated rebounder for a guard. This is “toughness” personified. However, his inability to hit a free throw is holding him back. You can’t have your point guard shooting under 70% from the charity stripe and expect to make the NCAA Tournament. Especially when you play so many close games. That’s got to improve.

Reggie Hearn (A): Probably my favorite player on Northwestern. The former walk on, I know you’ve heard it a million times, has really become a consistent scorer for Bill Carmody. He’s got a bit of an “old man game” around the rim and loves to shoot the mid range jumper. Really the only knock against Hearn is his health this year. That ankle injury against the Stanford Cardinal set him back and a flu bug bite him against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Tre Demps (B-): Tre looks to have hit the “freshman wall”. He really came on towards the end of conference season but now just can’t find the basket. That certainly hasn’t stopped him from shooting though and I’m okay with that. He’s a confident kid and is probably the only player on the team, right now, that can get his own shot off the bounce. Give Carmody credit putting him in the starting lineup.

Jared Swopshire (A-): The Louisville Cardinals transfer has been quite the find for the Wildcats. When he’s aggressive, he’s golden. His rebounding is excellent, especially for his size, and his shooting is getting better. My only bone to pick is why it took so long for him to get going? The Illinois Fighting Illini game was his breakout performance… on January 17th.

Alex Olah (B): A legit 7 footer at Northwestern is about as rare as finding a conservative is Chicago. They are few and far between. Alex has all the tools to become a good one but hasn’t been consistent enough just yet. Now, the last two games he’s shown aggressiveness and his teammates are feeding him the ball. Can he please start dunking though? I know he can! I saw it with my own two eyes against the Minnesota Golden Gophers! He’s still missing too many layups..


Alex Marcotullio (B): I can’t be too hard on Marco because he’s been dealing with a bad back all season. That’s a killer injury but especially for a shooter. Still, he’s started to come around recently and always is willing to take the big shot. He’s biggest contribution though has probably been at the top of the 1-3-1- zone. He reads passing angles so well and is just a pest for the other team’s ball handlers.

Mike Turner (C-): He’s only two years removed from playing at a “lab school” and it shows every game. His game is so raw and he looks intimidated at this level. I’m not sure why Carmody just doesn’t go small every time Olah takes a break. Turner is a foul machine and contributes nothing offensively.

Kale Abrahamson (C): Similar to Turner, he just doesn’t look ready for the Big Ten. I think he’ll be a good one as a junior and senior but he needs to put on a lot of weight. The shooting touch is sweet though. Very John Shurna esque.

Nikola Cerina (incomplete): The TCU Horned Frogs transfer has been hobbled by a bum ankle all year long and can’t get much time in the rotation so far. However, he’s a confident kid and really can’t be a worse option than Turner at the 5.

*NOTE: I omitted Drew Crawford, Sanjay Lumpkin because they are both out for the year.*


Carmody (B+): I’ve been one of his biggest critics over the past couple of years but what he’s done over the past couple of weeks with this patchwork roster has been impressive. He was already without his top top players (including JerShon Cobb) and then two of his key players (Hearn, Marcotullio) got hurt. The rebounding is still a major issue but part of that is the small lineup he’s utilized with Swopshire at the 5. Regardless of how the rest of the year plays out, he deserves a 14th season in Evanston with a full complement of players.

Fred Hill (A-): The former Rutgers Scarlet Knights head man has done wonders for the Wildcats defense. They have shown the ability to play man-to-man for the first time in ages and that’s allow the 1-3-1 zone to be used as a change up against certain teams. The team also seems to play with a lot of toughness, something that’s been absent for years. He also was vital in the recruitment of highly rated 2013 point guard Jaren Sina.

Tavaras Hardy (B): Some think Hardy is the heir apparent once Carmody steps down or is fired. I’m not 100 percent on board with that, just yet, but he is certainly doing a decent job in his current role. The only negative against him was this upcoming recruiting class was rather weak outside Sina, a key part of his job.

Ivan Vujic (B): The “big man coach” has done a good job with Olah so far. He’s also responsible for Northwestern tapping into talent in Eastern Europe. I wonder if he has something up his sleeve for next year with the Wildcats losing such a fine rebounder in Swopshire.

Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts.

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