Northwestern Will Upgrade at Point Guard Says Chris Collins

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chris collins northwestern

It’s no secret that the biggest issue Northwestern basketball had in 2018-19 was their abysmal offense. It’s also very widely understood that those offensive struggles stemmed from NU having no point guard in their roster this season.

After his team lost 74-69 in overtime to Illinois last night, and thus saw their season ended, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said he will be addressing this issue. He will be looking to add depth at guard, and hopefully not have to play guys out of position again this season.

“Guys did things they’d never done in their whole life in terms of their positions, and I appreciate what they did,” Collins said after NU crashed out of the Big Ten Tournament in the first round, “but you cannot win in this league and at this level without elite guard play.”

northwestern basketball

“That is certainly something that we have to address, and we have to continue to add to our roster at that position.”

Three of Northwestern’s five starters: Vic Law (he’ll be especially missed as he’s one of the most notable players in school history), Dererk Pardon and Ryan Taylor are now all gone due to graduation. That means a team that finished dead last in the league this season now loses a trio of players that comprised their top three scorers (about 2/3 of their average point total), top two rebounders, top two in blocks and top three in steals.

In other words, next year equals a cold restart of your machine, with Anthony Gaines and A.J. Turner the only real significant returnees with which to try and build a core nucleus.

The Cats will need to not only add pieces, but make all the pieces fit, because they just didn’t fit together this season.

“We need to get guards on the roster. I mean, there’s no question,” Collins continued.

“I said it before, we have a really good football team.”

“If a week before, two weeks before school you lose someone you thought was going to be your starter and two weeks into training camp your back-up blows his knee out, and now your running back has to play quarterback, and your wide receiver has to play running back, and your tight end has to play wide receiver, you get what I’m saying.”

“That’s what we had to do all year.”

The incoming recruiting class is ranked fourth the Big Ten and 37th overall, and most importantly, it includes Daniel Buie, who is classified as a point guard.

However, one must remember that the 2018 recruiting class, ranked 33rd nationally, was NU’s highest-ranked class in recorded history (records go back to 1999), and it hasn’t led to winning much of anything at all.

chris collins northwestern basketball

Neither of the two transfer guards this season worked out very well, and given what Collins had to say in Chicago at the United Center last night, it’s safe to say that he’s not done adding to the stable of guards, and that point guard will be the top priority.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Coach Richard Pitino noticed it too, while also praising the system that Chris Collins employs at Northwestern.

“They don’t have a pure point guard, and they don’t shoot the ball great,” Pitino said after his team won by 12 at Northwestern on February 28. 

“Chris runs awesome stuff, probably some of the best offensive sets in the league, but when you’re playing Vic Law at the point, Anthony Gaines at the point, those are guys who are not playing the right positions, so it’s really really hard.”

“I know they’re scratching and clawing to find ways to get an offensive flow, but that’s pretty much it right there.”

Whether it’s realizing, years ahead of the rest of us, how Twitter is a pointless waste land, or articulating the strange ambivalence that accompanies winning the N.I.T., you can usually count on Pitino to bring strong press conference game. After the breakout, first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history season in 2017, NU has now had back to back disastrous campaigns that fell well short of expectations in both years.

After long last, they finally have a new state-of-the-art arena and a tournament win on their resume, but the program trajectory is pointing downward again. 

Collins lauded the graduating senior class that made Northwestern history.

northwestern basketball

“To go to an NCAA Tournament, to play on semifinal Saturday in a Big Ten tournament, to win double-figure Big Ten games. To win a game in the NCAA Tournament, you know, there’s a lot of firsts that that group did that will never be taken away from them,” Collins said after the 2019 class of seniors laced ’em up for the final time.

“Their legacy is not about what happened this year.”

It’s about the overall body of work and what those guys have meant to our program and their belief in us when there wasn’t a whole lot to believe in. We really didn’t have the facilities. We didn’t have the tradition.”

“We didn’t have the history.”

“You know, I was just trying to sell a vision and a dream of what I thought Northwestern basketball could be.”

BIG TEN PICASSO

Now Chris Collins faces the challenge of making Northwestern basketball relevant again.

“Now we face ourselves in a position where we’ve got to build it again, and I’m committed to doing that. It’s going to take a lot of work. We’ve got to get better. I’ve got to be better. We’ve all got to get better. We’ve got to get it back to where we know we can get it.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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