Regime change is often difficult.
In both sports and politics. Sometimes, it’s a simple peaceful democratic election; where political party and politician are swapped out without major turmoil. Other times, it’s a violent overthrow resulting in bloodshed. In the world of sports, sometimes new leadership is installed and the machine keeps rolling along. Look at the line of Butler coaches from Thad Matta to Brad Stevens in college basketball. Or Oregon in college football.
It’s too early to designate year one of Chris Collins a disaster, but the pre-conference went about as poorly as one could expect. Of course, in college basketball conference play is what matters, from a regular season standpoint. And of course, March is the only thing anyone ever remembers.
So the first portion of Chris Collins debut season is over and it’s a lot like the first portion of Tim Beckman’s debut at Illinois. Both Beckman and Collins took over a program with severe deficiencies of talent. Both Tim Beckman and Chris Collins took over a program with players suited to another coach’s system; not their own. Both men had disastrous non-conference results. And Chris Collins has gotten off to a very rough start in conference play. NU is 0-3 in Big Ten play, with every loss by at least 23 points.
Chris Collins hit the lowest of lows with a home loss to DePaul. You know what the Blue Demons are right now. You know what the Blue Demons have been for many years now. So you know what losing to them means. Northwestern also lost at home to Illinois State and barely squeaked by Brown. They finished the pre-conference season 7-6 which translates to about 4-9 or 3-10 in real college basketball. Because everybody has a severely inflated winning percentage in the pre-con. When you look at who Chris Collins played, a schedule filled with low-majors and mid-majors, and analyze the results, it projects to about a 3-15 Big Ten season. Of course, everyone loads up on mid-majors and low-majors in the pre conference, so their schedule isn’t anything to be ashamed about. Everyone does it.
KenPom projects NU to only win one more game this year.
But not everyone finishes with a mediocre, just above .500 record. Most power conference teams win at least 75-80% of those games. In the four contests against high-major opponents, or teams that you’ve actually heard of, Northwestern has an average defeat margin of 15.3 ppg. Now I know “stats are for losers,” but let’s look at how strong those four opponents, UCLA, Missouri, N.C. State and Stanford really are. Well, Mizzou is the only team nationally ranked, and they’re barely hanging on, with the final spot in both polls. UCLA is receiving a few votes.
None of this bodes very well for Chris Collins when conference play opens with #4 Wisconsin at Welsh-Ryan Arena on January 2nd. It’s hard to realistically believe Collins will finish above anyone in the league…other than Penn State. And I’d say the best case scenario for his debut season is 11-20. That’s a big drop off from the solid mediocrity of Bill Carmody in four out of his last five years.
Of course, Tim Beckman showed significant improvement in year two commanding his program. Perhaps Chris Collins will do the same in his sophomore season. There’s nowhere for him to go but up as NU ranks 319th in the nation in scoring and 314th in field goal percentage. There are 351 teams in Division I. For good measure, they are 232nd in rebounding, and 234th in assists.
Beckman improved his lot in life by reeling in a big time recruit in Offensive Coordinator Bill Cubit. Next year he gets to pair Cubit with a future NFL talent QB in Wes Lunt. Chris Collins, similarly has big time reinforcements on the way. His first recruiting class is ranked #25 by ESPN.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also an analyst for multiple news talk radio stations across the country; with regular weekly segments on NBC and Fox Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and RSS Catch him Tuesdays talking Illini and Northwestern for KOZN 1620 The Zone, Fridays talking Chicago Bears for WAOR 95.7 The FanFollow paulmbanks