With the dust mostly settled on rosters for the 2023-24 season, we’re going team-by-team in the Big Ten to assess where everyone stands and how things could shake out next year.
Next up, going down the standings (past Indiana) is Northwestern. The Wildcats were one of the bigger surprises in the country last season, finishing third in the Big Ten at 12-8 and 22-12 overall.
- Chase Audige (14.1 PPG)
- Robbie Beran (7.5 PPG)
- Tydus Verhoeven (2.4 PPG)
- Julian Roper II (4.4 PPG)
- Boo Buie, G, (17.3 PPG)
- Ty Berry, G, (8.5 PPG),
- Brooks Barnhizer, G, (7.6 PPG),
- Matthew Nicholson, C, (6.3 PPG)
- Nick Martinelli, F, (2.6 PPG)
- Luke Hunger, F, (2.7 PPG)
- Ryan Langborg, G, (12.7 PPG at Princeton)
- Justin Mullins, G, (9.8 PPG at Denver)
- Blake Preston, C, (6.7 PPG at Liberty)
Freshmen (Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
- Jordan Clayton, PG (No. 183)
- Blake Barkley, PG (No. 243)
- Parker Strauss, PG (not ranked)
RETURNING MINUTES: 57.3 percent (per barttorvik.com)
WHY IT WILL WORK
Boo Buie was one of the top players in the Big Ten last year, and he’s unquestionably one of the top returning players. Even with backcourt mate Chase Audige gone, if Buie can replicate his performance from last season, he can still be good enough to be the best player on a good team. The Wildcats will need players like Brooks Barnhizer, Matthew Nicholson, and Ty Berry to take a step forward. And Princeton transfer Ryan Langborg and Liberty transfer Blake Preston will need to step in and contribute quickly.
WHY IT WON’T
Northwestern was the third-best defensive team in the Big Ten last year, and Audige was co-defensive player of the year. If that loss proves to be a notable blow to Northwestern’s defense, the team could have problems. The Wildcats ranked in KenPom’s top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency, and while the offense at No. 88 was not bad, it was still 10th in the Big Ten. Langborg could give the team some more shooting, but if he and Berry can’t step up in that department, Buie will carry a lot on his shoulders. The Wildcats were also the third-luckiest team in the Big Ten last year, per KenPom — behind, of all teams, Minnesota and Nebraska. If their luck fades this year, it could be tough to overcome.
It’s easy to compare this Northwestern team to the 2018 team that came off its other NCAA Tournament appearance. That group disappointed, finishing with a losing overall record while playing 45 minutes away from campus as Welsh-Ryan Arena was being renovated. While these Wildcats could take a bit of a step back, it would be surprising if they were that bad. This team has a wide range of outcomes, but enough pieces to be a difficult team to go up against. A second straight top-four finish in the Big Ten seems unlikely, but Northwestern could be right in the NCAA Tournament mix again.
BIG TEN OUTLOOK: Upper half
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