Maintaining success has never been more difficult in college basketball. The combination of the transfer portal and the NBA Draft makes each offseason both eventful and potentially transformative for most programs.
Now that the smoke has mostly cleared following the 2021-22 season, we’ll go team-by-team in the Big Ten to assess which programs are set up for success, and who might take a step back.
Next up is Northwestern. Head coach Chris Collins has been in Evanston for nine seasons, and he has amassed a 133-150 record during his time there. The Wildcats were 15-16 overall in 2021-22, and 7-13 in the Big Ten. Northwestern is just 20-59 in the Big Ten over the last four seasons.
- Pete Nance (14.6 PPG),
- Ryan Young (9.0 PPG),
- Ryan Greer (3.9 PPG),
- Elyjah Williams (3.3 PPG),
- Casey Simmons (2.5 PPG)
- Boo Buie, PG (14.1 PPG),
- Chase Audige, SG (9.8 PPG),
- Ty Berry, PG (7.4 PPG),
- Robbie Beran, SF (6.4 PPG),
- Julian Roper II, SG (4.0 PPG),
- Matthew Nicholson, C (1.8 PPG),
- Brooks Barnhizer, SF (1.7 PPG)
- Tydus Verhoeven, PF (6.6 PPG at UTEP)
Freshmen (Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
- Luke Hunger, PF (three-star, No. 197),
- Nick Martinelli, SF (three-star, NR)
RETURNING MINUTES: 59.6 percent (per barttorvik.com)
WHY IT WILL WORK
A veteran backcourt is often the ticket to success in college basketball, and Northwestern has that. Buie, Audige and Berry have all had varying degrees of success at the high major level. With them, Collins has a foundation to build from, and if they can develop further, perhaps the Wildcats can take a step forward. Beran is also experienced, starting 30 games last year, and Roper is a promising young player who started 15 times. If experience and continuity matter, Northwestern might be able to pull off a few surprises in the Big Ten.
WHY IT WON’T
The losses of Nance and Young are brutal. Northwestern now has no proven high major players in their frontcourt. Unless 7-footer Nicholson makes major strides or Hunger develops faster than projected, Northwestern is going to get exposed in the paint. Moreover, while the guards are nice players, they are relatively undersized collectively, and none of them have proven to be elite level, put the team on their back kind of players on a consistent basis. At the three through five spots, this doesn’t resemble a high major team.
Where did all those good feels from 2017 go? Collins has gone from the darling of college basketball, leading Northwestern to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, to a clear hot seat. They’ve finished below .500 all five seasons since the tourney trip, and Northwestern has finished above .500 in Big Ten play just once under Collins. Let’s face it, Collins is coaching for his job this year, and his performance on the recruiting trail suggests the outside world has already given up on him. The roster is starting to resemble a pre-Collins talent level with no help in sight.
BIG TEN OUTLOOK: Bottom third.
MORE BIG TEN OUTLOOKS:
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