It wasn't the two most convincing wins for Northwestern but wins over UMass-Lowell and Fairfield are wins, and head coach Chris Collins has his team on a 2-0 start. But the big tests are just around the corner.
After this game against the Columbia Lions, the Wildcats will head to Chapel Hill to play the number one team in the country in UNC. Then they will play Virginia Tech in Blacksburg a week later. It will be a big test for a young Wildcat team.
But right now the focus is on Columbia. The Lions are 1-1 on the season and are looking to bounce back after a 81-71 loss to Kansas State on Monday. Columbia got their first win over Division III Kean County College but came up short against a power conference opponent in K-State. They gave the Wildcats trouble throughout the game but K-State held on just long enough.
Northwestern will be another out of conference test as Columbia will also play the likes of Wofford, Bucknell and Saint Joseph's. In a conference where Harvard is the cream of the crop, Columbia will have to raise some eyebrows and have a good out of conference record if they want to have some momentum heading into Ivy League play. It's even more important to have a good start in conference play considering that the Ivy League is one of two Division 1 conferences without an automatic bid (Big West is the other one). Columbia has the talent to slay a Ivy League giant but the consistency is the issue.
Columbia will be another dangerous opponent Northwestern has to take seriously as the Lions have great shooters. Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg are the two main threats on offense and both can shoot the ball exceptionally. But both have struggled this season so far with Rosenberg shooting a woeful 20 percent from deep. Even with the slump right now, the Lions still pose a threat. If either Lo or Rosenberg get hot, it could be a long night for Northwestern.
Luckily for Northwestern, they have a shooter of their own. Freshman Aaron Falzon has hit seven straight three's in Northwestern's past two games and is eight away from the record of 15. Falzon is shooting a solid 62 percent from the field and 53 percent from deep. Even though he is a freshman, Falzon has shown that he can give Northwestern a solid offensive output every night and is a threat from three-point land. In a game where the Wildcats will be tested by Columbia's shooters, Falzon could be the equalizer.
This is the first big test for Northwestern as they enter a stretch of games where they won't be favorites and it will be a good learning experience for a relatively young team.