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aft has put a chip on my shoulder," Bell said. "Theres an

EVANSTON, Ill. Tyrone Taylor Brewers Jersey . -- Bryant McIntosh sees the progress.The star point guard endured a losing season as a freshman and was a big reason why Northwestern set a school regular-season record with 20 wins a year ago.Now as he enters his junior season, McIntosh sees no reason why the Wildcats cant continue their climb.The experiences that Ive gone through the past two years, it keeps telling me its our time, its my time, McIntosh said.The Wildcats are counting on McIntosh to help them continue the progress they have made under coach Chris Collins and maybe -- at long last -- lead them to their first NCAA Tournament. Northwestern went 20-12 overall and 8-10 in conference play to finish ninth in the Big Ten a year ago.In McIntosh , the Wildcats boast one of the Big Tens top point guards.He set a school record with 213 assists and ranked second in the Big Ten -- ninth nationally -- at 6.7 per game last season. McIntosh is also the teams top returning scorer after averaging 13.8 points.I wouldnt trade Bryant for any other guard in college basketball, Collins said. I love the kid. Hes been with me since day one. He committed to us and has been there, and weve given him the ball as a freshman. Hes done nothing but get better and better every year.Here are some things to look for from the Wildcats:STEADY PROGRESSNorthwestern appears to be headed in the right direction, going from 14-19 to 15-17 to 20-12 in Collins three seasons. But the question remains. Can Northwestern, the host of the first Final Four in 1939 -- reach the NCAA tourney?I think you cant let your mind wander to March, Collins said. I think you have to understand the games in November and December are just as important as the ones in late February and early March.Collins thought the Wildcats were in good position to challenge the NCAA drought last year. Losing forward Vic Law for the season to a shoulder injury and center Alex Olah (foot) missing time damaged their chances.PARDON HIMNorthwestern planned to redshirt center Dererk Pardon as a freshman last season. Olahs injury changed that.Pardon wound up averaging 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 20 games. Now that Olah is gone, Northwestern is counting on bigger things from him.I think hes ready to take that role on. Alex Olah has been such a constant in our program the last four years, three with me, Collins said.LAW RETURNSNorthwesterns NCAA hopes in some ways hinge on Law.The 6-foot-7 forward brings the athleticism and all-around game that could go a long way toward determining how far the Wildcats go. A highly touted recruit, Law averaged 7 points, 4.8 rebounds and shot 35.5 percent on 3-pointers as freshman in 2014-15.TWO TIMENorthwestern needs to find a scoring threat to pair with McIntosh in the backcourt, now that last years leading scorer Tre Demps is gone. That could be up to junior Scottie Lindsey, who shot just under 41 percent on 3-pointers last season. Law might also be a possibility.OVERHAUL COMINGSay goodbye to Welsh-Ryan Arena for a while.The 63-year-old facility is in for a $110 million renovation after this season, with chair-back seats replacing wooden bleachers, premium seating, wider concourses and updated audio and video systems. While the arena gets a makeover, the Wildcats will play home games during the 2017-18 season at Allstate Arena in Rosemont. Bj Surhoff Brewers Jersey . Nigeria beat surprise package Ethiopia 2-0 in the second leg of their playoff for a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory. Victor Moses converted a 20th-minute penalty after an Ethiopian handball, and Victor Obinna made certain of Nigerias place in Brazil with his powerful free kick in the 82nd at UJ Esuene Stadium. Jay Jackson Jersey .com) - The game was all punts and field goals before Kodi Whitfields catch. . Here are his mid-season NBA awards.  MVP: (KEVIN DURANT-Thunder) - Has been sensational this season and more importantly, the most consistent player in the league. Considering that his team has been without star guard Russell Westbrook and with the free agent departure of sharpshooter Kevin Martin, hes had to carry the majority of the load to not only keep his team afloat but more importantly, at an elite level.NEWARK, N.J. -- A week after the New Jersey Devils lost star forward Ilya Kovalchuk to sudden retirement, general manager Lou Lamoriello is still plotting out the future for a team that advanced to the Stanley Cup final just 13 months ago. The Devils watched Kovalchuk last week sign his voluntary retirement papers, which allowed him to break free of the NHL and to sign a new deal in his native Russia. New Jersey also lost forward David Clarkson to free agency, as he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this month. The Devils added some players up front in free agency as well, namely forwards Ryan Clowe, from the New York Rangers, and Michael Ryder, from the Phoenix Coyotes. But still, Lamoriello is in a bind as he looks to move past two players who combined for 93 goals the past two seasons. "The biggest transition they have to make is certainly not (to) be intimidated," Lamoriello said of his young prospects, who worked at the teams developmental camp this week. "There are people that have had success in the league, people that they have watched play. This gives them an opportunity to feel good about themselves and make it easier as opposed to past years when they had to come in at training camp." Reid Boucher, the Devils fourth-round choice in 2011, led the Ontario Hockey League last year with 62 goals in 68 games for Sarnia and has a chance now to impress Lamoriello and coach Peter DeBoer. "For sure, you want to come out, have a good camp and prove yourself a little," he said. "Anything helps at this point. My goal is to play in the NHL this year. Maybe (the player departures) has me working a little harder here. I dont know if I can step right in and fill (Kovalchuks) slot, but Im going to do the best I can to compete for a job." Boucher, who signed with the Devils late last season, is a native of Michigan who has spent time with the United States Development Program. He will turn 20 in September, so he might be headed back to the juniors for more seasoning. "But I can see some light now at the end of the tunnel," Boucher said. "Maybe it might have been a long shot before (Clarkson and Kovalchuk), but not now. I am looking to have the opportunity to prove myself in the NHL and thats what I am going to do." Boucher said that he has been improving as the camp has continued. "t;Its not quite my best, but Im holding my own," Boucher said. Matt Albers Brewers Jersey. "Im still trying to get my legs underneath me. Were moving at a good pace." Another rookie forward is Myles Bell, a native of Calgary who was the Devils sixth-round selection last month. Bell is also just 19 years old and was passed over in the draft in both 2011 and 2012 after suffering injuries in a car accident that killed his girlfriend. Bell received two years probation for driving in that accident as a 17-year-old in April 2011. "It happened and Im working now on taking my life in a positive direction," said Bell, who scored 38 goals in 69 games with Kelowna of the Western Hockey League last season. "I have to keep what happened in the past." Before the accident, Bell was expected to be a first-round draft pick. The Devils took somewhat of a gamble on the forward who is known for his slap shot. "Being passed over in the draft has put a chip on my shoulder," Bell said. "Theres an opening now here, an opportunity that I have to take advantage of. But theres a lot of hard work left before I can make that a reality." Bell said that he was taking a nap recently when his cellphone was rattled with texts about Kovalchuks decision. "My agent (Gerry Johannson) then called me and said that the Devils now have a little more room now and that it could open up something for me in the system," Bell said. "Theres a hole on the right side here and I have to take advantage of it. But theres only so much I can control. "Its everyones goal, to be on an NHL roster. I know its a business." Lamoriello wouldnt speculate further as to what the team will do with the salary now vacated by Kovalchuk, but he did say that the rookie camp, which was not held last season due to the lockout, offers the young players a chance to make a name for themselves before training camp. He also said the players who skated in Wednesdays early session are part of "the group that will be invited to training camp," so that means Boucher and Bell will be back when training camp begins in September. Lamoriello also said that he hopes to have contracts signed by restricted free agents Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson by the end of the week and there might be an announcement about the teams new assistant coach. ' ' '