Looking Ahead: Five Questions

Photo Credit: Reese Strickland/US Presswire

The disappointing end to Northwestern's once-promising season brings an offseason of many questions. The Wildcats will feature a new core of players next season, and speculation looms around the future of the program. PurpleWildcats.com looks at the five biggest offseason questions.

Northwestern's season -- once filled with promise -- ended in disappointment on Friday night, as the Wildcats were routed by the Washington Huskies. The offseason is upon us, and earlier than the 'Cats had hoped.

This offseason begins the most critical period in the program's long history. Northwestern fell shy of the NCAA Tournament again this season. This year's squad compiled the greatest resume of any team in NU history, but it still wasn't enough. Close isn't satisfying for Wildcat fans anymore.

Again, the page is being turned in the program's disappointing book. After a crushing ending to the season, the Wildcats face many questions this offseason.

Will Carmody return?

The first, and most important question, will be answered soon -- likely this week. As normal post-season protocal, Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips will meet with head coach Bill Carmody to discuss the future of the program.

Phillips may or may not have already made a decision on Carmody's future. The head coach would enter his 13th season with Northwestern, each of those without an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. During their meeting, Carmody will need to explain to Phillips why his 13th season would be different than the first 12.

It's very likely that word on the head coach will be available this week. This will be one of the most important decisions this program has ever seen. After that, the Wildcats will move forward.

Can Crawford be 'the guy' for Northwestern?

Michael Thompson is gone, and now John Shurna is gone. This is now Drew Crawford's team. The senior-to-be averaged 16.4 points per game this season, and has upped his scoring output each season.

Crawford was impressive this season, but often disappeared when the team needed him the most. With no Shurna next season, Crawford needs to be the go-to guy when the game is on the line. His performance will be largely indicative of the team's success.

Who steps in as center?

Bill Carmody chose to play without a true center through much of Big Ten play, starting John Shurna as the Wildcats' center, while Davide Curletti came off the bench and Luka Mirkovic sat out. All three of those big men are gone.

Northwestern will rely on freshman center recruit Alex Olah -- who has not yet submitted his letter of intent, but wil do so in April -- and TCU transfer Nikola Cerina, who played sparingly during his career with the Horned Frogs.

Olah and Cerina will surely be an upgrade as a true center over Shurna, Curletti, and Mirkovic, who lacked the physicality that is required to battle with the Big Ten's best big men. The question, though, is how will each center adjust to a new speed of basketball.

What can Jershon Cobb do?

JerShon Cobb's late-season surge was bittersweet for Northwestern fans. It was a sign of a bright future for the junior-to-be, who has battled health issues throughout his collegiate career. However, it also left Wildcat fans to ask what their season could have held if Cobb was healthy during the entire season.

If healthy, Cobb could create a scoring duo with Drew Crawford next season. He serves as the athletic slasher that Northwestern needs, and is a perfect fit in the Princeton offense. The Wildcats need Cobb to be a key player next season.

Which freshmen will make an impact?

Each of Northwestern's three incoming freshmen could make an impact next season. Alex Olah is likely to see early playing time at center. Both Kale Abrahamson and Sanjay Lumpkin could see plenty of minutes next season, and are candidates to possibly start.

Abrahamson will be counted on as Northwestern's three-point shooting specialist, and Lumpkin will be a nice compliment to Crawford. Of course, NU can still add to its recruiting class. 'Cat coaches are still working the recruiting trails to find a potential fourth member of the group.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college football, college basketball and college baseball for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2009. He served as a writer for Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics, and is now the Publisher of PurpleWildcats.com, covering the Northwestern Wildcats.
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