Northwestern Basketball: When Does Chris Collins’ Seat Warm?

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Did you see the Northwestern basketball game last night? Did their blowing an 18 point lead and losing surprise you? Well, you haven’t been paying attention (and judging by the attendance figures most of you are not) this season. 2019-20 Northwestern basketball is to blowing seemingly insurmountable leads what Taylor Swift is to failed relationships and writing numerous songs about them.

On one hand, Northwestern basketball is in a very different place than it was three years ago this month. They now have the NCAA Tournament drought monkey off their back, top notch facilities and a world class venue for home games.

On the other hand, not much, other than new and astronomical ticket price hikes, has changed since 2017 regarding Northwestern basketball.

They’re back in the Big Ten basement, for a second straight season, with no indications of escaping any time soon. They finished dead last in the league last year, going 4-14, and the loss in New Jersey dropped them to 1-11 in conference for the year. KenPom.com projects as a 3-17 finish, and it’s fair to ask- where do you see two more wins on the schedule?

Wednesday brings in a Michigan program that has been very up and down this season. In new coach Juwan Howard’s first year, the Wolverines were vastly overrated at the beginning, suffered a market correction, and now find themselves as a mediocre side (14-9, 5-7 in the league) struggling to get/stay above water in the NCAA Tournament/NIT demarcation point. For UM, they can easily still play their way into the tourney, but Wednesday night could be tricky as their recent series with the Cats has been tightly contested.

Regardless of where the two sides sit in the Big Ten pecking order, or how far apart their overall records, we’ve seen some classic games in the series recently. You have the 2017 Senior Day game, which many would consider the greatest moment in recent Welsh-Ryan Arena history for the hosts, and the very controversial 2016 Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal.

This could be a chance for an upset special, even though ESPN’s predictor app says there is a 76% probability of an ESPN win. Can 6-16 overall NU get three more wins to match last season’s in conference win total? Almost certainly no, but a home game against Minnesota on Feb 23 and a trip to Nebraska on March 1 could both be winnable.

Since the breakthrough NCAA Tournament season of 2017, Northwestern basketball is now 34-52 overall, 11-39 in the league. Basically, in spite of all the highly rated recruits that coach Chris Collins has signed, they’re right back where they were when he first took over the program/Bill Carmody’s final season.

chris collins northwestern

As it’s a private school, his annual salary and contract buyout are not public record, but he’s signed until 2025, and he reportedly makes $1.43 million per year. So one can ballpark figure his buyout with that in mind. Obviously, like Joe Maddon with the Chicago Cubs, no matter what happens, he’s always “gonna be the guy who finally did the thing.”

Of course, as we just learned with Maddon in October this is valuable capital, yes, but it still has a shelf life. Attendance is now at the lowest of the Collins era of Northwestern basketball, and that is absolutely deserved given a.) how high ticket prices are now and b.) season results, both in and out of conference.

Collins has certainly delivered when it comes to reeling in recruits, but he’s just not developing them. The failing to close the deal, night in and night out, is also a poor reflection of his leadership abilities.

chris collins

He’s also been plagued by early exits and transfers that greatly underwhelmed. While we knew coming in that this season was going to be tough, not many expected them to be this poor. Maybe, in a year from now, if things are still down at this level, and there are no indications of improvement any time soon, then his seat thaws/starts warming? Maybe?

It all depends on what kind of realistic standards Athletic Director Dr. Jim Phillips has for Northwestern basketball.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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