Northwestern Wildcats Basketball 2021/22 Season Preview

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Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins is now 118-132 overall and 49-98 in conference since he took over for Bill Carmody in 2013-14. Yes, Northwestern improved last season, but not all that substantially. If they do improve again this upcoming season, as some believe they will, the jump will need to be much more significant.

When Collins signed his contract extension in 2017, fresh off the program’s first and only NCAA Tournament appearance, he then became among the 15 highest paid coaches in college hoops. Since then they went 15-17 (6-12) in 2017-18, 13-19 (4-16) in 2018-19, 8-22 (3-17) in 2019-20 and 9-15 (6-13) last season.

Now that Collins has a new boss, he has to prove himself all over again. His contract isn’t close to expiring, or anything like that, but CC has to show this Athletic Director that seasons like 2016-17 are for real, not a fluke, in the Northwestern basketball program.

Last Time Out

See above. Best we just turn the page to this season, one that has plenty of hope, due to all the returning production and overall experience.

“I think the biggest win is just the retainment, with the the way the rules are now, we’ve invested in this core group,” Collins told us during an exclusive conversation at the Chicago College Basketball Luncheon.

“For all those guys to stick together, seven of our top eight guys stayed. To me that was a big win, we wanted this group, we knew there was going to be some growing pains, as they were young, and we hoped we could get through that, and keep the group together and have a chance as they got older, to be competitive for postseason.”

Key Northwestern basketball Players

Well, it’s gonna be weird to see Miller Kopp on Indiana, especially when the Hoosiers come in on Feb. 8, and we covered that in detail here.

Junior guard Boo Buie is not just a fun name to say, he’s also the most fun player on this team to watch. He is inconsistent, but NU plays very well, and often wins games when he’s on. Pete Nance, son of three time NBA All-Star and 1984 Slam Dunk champion Larry Nance, is third in scoring among returnees, and Collins said that they have had NBA people in to come check him out.

Junior guard Chase Audige is the leading returning scorer and should have an increased role this season. Robbie Beran, Ryan Young and Ty Berry will all be major contributors as well.

Circle the Date, Northwestern basketball fans 

Last  year the Cats started 6-1, including three straight Big Ten wins over then-No. 4 Michigan State (79-65, Dec. 20), Indiana (74-67, Dec. 23) and then-No. 23 Ohio State (71-70, Dec. 26). NU even found themselves in the AP top 20, before the wheels then fell off, and a 13 game losing streak transpired.

This year their first test will come in the Legends Classic where they’ll face a team from the Big East (Providence), and then another from the SEC or ACC (Georgia or Virginia). Other than the Big Ten/ACC Challenge (at Wake Forest), the rest of the non-conference slate is pretty soft.

In league competition, their one-lays are Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio State. That’s a pretty good break right there, although they do have to face Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State twice.

Bottom Line

The pieces are in place to move up the pecking order, but who moves down? The league is just that tough, and ultra deep, so how do the Cats get into the top half?

Well, the good news is that they don’t have to contend for the league, or win it, in order to get back to the tournament.

“In the last couple of years, in the Big Ten, 9 to 11 (wins) has gotten you in the tournament,” Collins said during our exclusive chat. “So it’s not like you got to go from where we are and you have to win the league.

“We won six last year, can we go from six to nine or ten, I think that’s very possible, and hopefully more. We don’t put a win total on it, but I think the expectation and the talk is to be postseason team, and that’s definitely a goal.”

I would say the ceiling for this team is being in the #8-#9 game in the Big Ten Tournament. They should, with ease, avoid ending up in Wednesday night again.

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2021-22 College Basketball Season Preview Series

Illinois  Illini Final Four Odds  Northwestern   DePaul    Loyola   Purdue

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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