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First Impressions of the Wildcats 2021-22 Men's Basketball Roster

A non-conference exhibition game helped set the scene for Northwestern men's basketball's upcoming season.

On November 4th, the Northwestern University men's basketball team had a glimpse of what the upcoming season has in store for the Wildcats. The team hosted Lindenwood University, a Division II program, and prevailed 85–40 in the first game with fans populating Welsh-Ryan Arena for a men's basketball game since March of 2020.

The Wildcats were able to reach the high scoring mark without the services of redshirt junior guard Chase Audige and redshirt junior center Ryan Young, who both sat out due to minor injuries and are expected to be available for Tuesday's home opener. Both players were within the top five scorers on the team in 2020-21, so these losses meant that the Lindenwood game would provide opportunities for other players to step up and push for increased roles for the upcoming seasons.

Below are some observations from the exhibition that is supplemented with background information that will prepare Wildcat fans for the upcoming season.

#22 Pete Nance

The senior forward made his presence known in the contest, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds and recording one block and one steal. Other characteristics that stuck out about Nance were his physically imposing game that included a tough presence at the basket, as well as his ability to portray control when airborne and he also made several strong passes when dealing with active contact.

Nance is a captain and veteran, so this performance was not surprising to see. He brings experience and pedigree to the table and will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.

#0 Boo Buie

The junior guard is a playmaker on the court. He finished with nine points and four assists in the victory, and is lethal with his agility. He utilizes a quick first step to leave defenders in the dust and is eager to drive to the net as a result of this. 

Buie asserted himself as a starter in 2020-21 and is looking to build upon that this season. His continued growth will be significant if the Wildcats hope to contend for the Big Ten title.

#3 Ty Berry

The sophomore guard was the most impressive player on the court against Lindenwood. He led Northwestern with 17 points and added five rebounds and three steals. Berry showcased an aggressive play style and utilized his creativity to make several strong passing plays.

Berry was a significant contributor in 2020-21 but only entered games off of the bench. He received a starting nod in this exhibition game and ran with it. He made a terrific case for an increased role this season and should be considered a candidate for a breakout season. 

#14 Casey Simmons

The freshman guard did not light up the stat sheet, recording only one rebound, and ran into foul trouble by committing four infractions. This does not diminish the athletic ability he showed. He possesses a tall frame and also elite foot speed. His defensive capabilities are notable and he can rely on natural athleticism to generate scoring chances.

Simmons was the top recruit for the Wildcats going into the season, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the regular season games. The No. 1 player in Massachusetts has all the raw talent that coaches dream about, so harnessing that ability is the next step for Simmons.

#31 Robbie Beran

The junior forward was a force to be reckoned with in the paint as he collected seven rebounds and displayed a strong ability to make the quick pass that led to a smooth transition down to the other end of the court. Beran also registered 10 points in the matchup. 

Beran was a consistent starter in 2020-21 and will look to continue in that role while producing more on the offensive end. He is a strong defender and has the potential to be a two-way force.

#2 Ryan Greer

The senior guard played a balanced game, contributing four points, three assists, two rebounds, and one steal in 22 minutes. 

Greer was named a captain for the upcoming season and carried himself like a leader on the court. He has the potential for a big game and it will be interesting to see exactly what he accomplishes on the floor this season.

#21 Elyjah Williams

The graduate student forward made his Wildcat debut in the contest and exceeded expectations. He scored 11 points and recorded 10 rebounds and was a wrecking ball on the court. He consistently won battles all over the floor and his gritty play looks to be a breath of fresh air for the Wildcats team

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Williams enjoyed a prolific career at Farleigh Dickinson University, who are notably a 2021-22 opponent of the Wildcats, and was also a standout at Evanston Township High School. It will be interesting to see how he fits into this Wildcat team.

#5 Julian Roper III

The freshman guard was all over the court in the exhibition match and was able to contribute five points and four rebounds. This does not tell the full story, as he was able to cultivate several scoring chances and had the ball in his hand for a significant amount of time

Stuff happens when Roper possesses the ball. He was not necessarily "on" when it came to shooting against Lindenwood, but the chances he was able to get show just how much of a scoring threat he can be. The Wildcat's are in good hands when he possesses the ball, and the No. 4 ranked player in Michigan looks to have a bright future in Evanston

#13 Brooks Barnhizer

The freshman guard made a really strong impression in his first collegiate action, registering 10 points, three steals and two rebounds in only 11 minutes of action. He was a jolt of energy for every minute he was on the floor, and looks to be a disruptor off of the bench and will challenge for a starting spot.

Barnhizer can score and has great hands. He is comfortable dribbling and is willing to take risks to make a play. This is fine because he believes he can steal the ball back if he turns the ball over. He plays with a confidence level that is unlike a typical freshman and it will be interesting to see how the Indiana product will settle in to the college game.

#34 Matthew Nicholson

The sophomore center was noticeable on the court in his limited minutes. He contributed three points and earned four rebounds. Two characteristics define his game; tall and raw.

Nicholson possesses an attribute one cannot teach; size. He has an abundance of it, standing at seven feet tall. He has the potential to be a problem in the paint for opponents, but developing his athleticism is necessary for him to take the next step.

#53 Roy Dixon III and #54 Dylan Sandhu

The sophomore guards took to the court at the ending stages of the fourth quarter and combined for three total minutes. Neither player recorded any statistics in the game but have time to learn and grow as underclassmen on the team.

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