Remember when Northwestern actively avoided rebounds? Thankfully for Chris Collins, that's no longer the case, as the Wildcats are not running away screaming from their own missed shots.
But "not terrible" is a far cry from "good," and Northwestern is not good at recovering its own misses, ranking a mediocre 10th in conference play in offensive rebounding percentage. That's to be expected, however, with a lineup that features four jumpshooters and Dererk Pardon.
But what happens when those jumpshooters don't make shots? Well, turns out the answer is "nothing good," as Northwestern's 13th-best 3-point percentage surely has a lot to do with its paltry 10th-place showing in offensive efficiency in Big Ten play. Just two Wildcats are managing to shoot over 35% from deep (Nate Taphorn and Vic Law), which really limits the efficient scoring options. Scottie Lindsey (himself an avid jumpshooter) and opportunistic scorers Pardon and Sanjay Lumpkin are the only two Cats above 50 percent on 2s, as this isn't a team that will score well in the interior.
The bottom line is that Northwestern misses a lot of shots. The only means of fixing that is to find more shots to attempt. The good news is that NU has a lot of careful ballhandlers that keep the turnovers in check, and that's largely propelled NU's relatively strong showing in the Shot Volume Index, a metric created by John Gasaway that gets at how good a team is at creating shot attempts (e.g., by reducing turnovers and getting second chances via offensive rebounds).
The Wildcats have been able to fend off the cold shooting night by getting more attempts, which is good. The problem is that there have been many cold shooting nights in Big Ten play, and when a team can keep the Wildcats off the glass, it's a pretty easy offense to contain.
The average Big Ten offense collects 30.5 percent of its misses. When NU hits or exceeds that number, the team is 14-1. Under that bar, and the Cats are a woeful 7-9. Moreover, in Big Ten play, Northwestern's offense finished under a point per possession in 5 of the 9 games in which the Wildcats rebounded fewer than 30.5 percent of their misses (four of those coming within February—all losses). But NU's offense has finished under a point per possession—in any game—where they exceeded that rebounding threshold (Wake Forest).
Chris Collins seems to be aware of this, as Pardon (NU's best offensive rebounder) has logged heavy minutes (32.2 MPG) in conference play. The good news is that freshman Barret Benson—Pardon's understudy—has acquitted himself well when he's gotten his chances.
The Wildcats have three games remaining on the regular season (Indiana, Michigan, and Purdue), and they probably need to win one of those to feel confident about finally getting that dance invitation. Getting to the glass—or finally getting hot from the outside—would do wonders for the offense waking from its doldrums.