2022 in review
I could write something pithy here, but why do that when I can just refer you to resident Big Boss MNWildcat’s review of the season.
The story went as most NU seasons have under Chris Collins. Very few non-conference games of note: the ‘Cats lost a neutral site game to Providence Friars, a roadie in OT to Wake Forest, and lost 8 of their first 10 Big Ten games. (Of course, there was a road upset of then-#10 Michigan State, meaning Tom Izzo will loudly protest Chris Collins’ eventual firing.)
Northwestern flashed life with three straight wins over horseshit team Rutgers, try-hard team Nebraska, and NCAA Tournament team Indiana—but this team wasn’t going anywhere. The rest of the way, the ‘Cats beat Nebraska two more times and Minnesota once.
That was it: 15-16, with a mediocre 7-13 in the Big Ten and a Wednesday game at the Big Ten Tournament.
Then, their two best Big Men fled, Pete Nance to North Carolina and Ryan Young to Duke. You might say things aren’t particularly bright in Evanston these days.
PG Boo Buie, 6’2’’ Senior: The one very bright spot for Northwestern basketball remains Buie, who is a great creator and takes care of the ball. When everything else is a question, having a veteran point guard can even things out quite a bit. He was around the middle of the pack as far as his shooting, and Northwestern will be in a better place if they can get some scorers around him. What surrounds Buie is probably the biggest question mark this year.
BoilerUp89: Buie is a good PG and distributes the ball well. He’s also a streaky 3 point shooter who probably attempts too many of them for his shooting percentages (just 33.5% last year, 32.7% for his career at NU). When he’s on (ie: 6/11 against Nebraska) it’s fine, but when he’s off it is a problem.
SG Chase Audige, 6’4’’ Senior: Well, hey, “old wins” in basketball, and Northwestern has lots of seniors, right? Audige is, in theory, an athletic scorer who can punish guys who close out on him by attacking the rim. Unfortunately, in practice last year he gave off Laker era Russell Westbrook vibes, hitting just 39% from 2 and 26% from three. He didn’t draw fouls and couldn’t make shots, which is Not Good for the guy with the second highest usage on the team.
BoilerUp89: Audige cannot shoot well but took a quarter of Northwestern’s shots when he was in the game last year. He needs to improve his shot selection or his shooting ability
SG Ty Berry, 6’3’’ Junior: I’m really just guessing here on Northwestern starters. Berry started the first half of the season last year, but wasn’t very good and eventually came off the bench. He was the team’s best three point option, shooting 38% on 133 attempts. He didn’t really do anything else, though, so put his name here in pencil.
BoilerUp89: Berry was replaced by Roper in the starting lineup for the 2nd half of last year. Roper is a better defender, but Berry is a more confident and more accurate shooter.
PF Robby Beran, 6’9’’ Senior: With Young and Nance gone, Beran is the only returning big man with real experience. He’s about what you would expect for a Northwestern big - he has some stretch to his game and shot 37% from three. He was pretty dependable but has pretty low usage, something that seems likely to change this season. Northwestern looks destined to play a lot of small ball this year and Beran may draw the centers in the conference.
BoilerUp89: Beran is the most efficient of the returning players, but Northwestern has rarely run the offense thru him. He’s also the only effective rebounder returning to the Wildcats from last year’s squad.
C Tydus Verhoeven, 6’9’’ Senior: Another big man candidate, Verhoeven is a grad transfer from UTEP. He profiles as a big body near the basket who can protect the rim a bit. There is no stretch to his game and he averaged seven points and five rebounds for UTEP last season, so don’t expect a lot here.
BoilerUp89: If Verhoeven is the starting center, that’s probably not a recipe for success. He didn’t do much at UTEP and I have a hard time seeing him putting up even respectable numbers in the B1G.
SG Julian Roper, 6’3’’ Sophomore: Roper is another candidate to start. As a freshman last year he provided a lot of energy on defense and was able to do a little of everything. He was among the team leaders in steals, blocks, and offensive rebounds, so the effort is real. What he didn’t do is provide much offense, averaging only 4 points a game despite starting half the year. Still, as a sophomore, he is one of the few guys who might turn into a real player.
SF Brooks Barnhizer, 6’6’’ Sophomore: Barnhizer is another option that could start or come off the bench at multiple positions, even at point guard. That is based purely in the imaginations of Northwestern fans, because as a freshman last year he played sparingly and wasn’t very good. He took 26 shots and was 1-9 from three. But hey, he’s young, and hope springs eternal.
BoilerUp89: Brooks Barnhizer was a decently ranked recruit from Indiana (just outside of the top 150) but didn’t draw interest from any of instate programs Purdue, ND, or Indiana. He got a lot less minutes than fellow freshman Casey Simmons and Julian Roper last year and they play similar positions. Simmons transferred to Yale this offseason so Barnhizer should be able to crack the rotation this year. Simmons and Roper were similarly ranked to Barnhizer which has me wondering why Collins put together a 3 man class of guys who all played the 3 spot last year...
C Matthew Nicholson, 7’0’’ Junior: Nicholson is your resident seven footer who can’t shoot, doesn’t move much, and mostly comes in to be tall. He barely played last year, but given the Cats’ lack of options for big men he should see more minutes.
G Roy Dixon III, 5’11’’ Senior: Dixon is a former walk on who has apparently earned a scholarship this year. He played in six games last year and was so prolific he doesn’t even appear on Torvik’s website. He is included because we here at OTE are committed to giving you the most complete information possible on dumpster fire programs.
F Nick Martinelli, 6’7’’ Freshman: Chris Collins brings in three freshmen this year, and there are opportunities to play. Martinelli is a former commit to Elon, and his recruiting profile doesn’t exactly spark confidence, given that he has no picture and doesn’t appear on the composite ranking at all. Apparently he is a good shooter and his brother formerly walked on for the team.
F Luke Hunger, 6’10’’ Freshman: A Canadian, eh? Hunger comes from the great white north, and is an actual prospect on 247, checking in as the 201st ranked player. He could be the freshman Most Likely To Contribute this year, as he’s a big body at 6’10’’, 255, and he describes himself as “the toughest kid on the court.” You might say he’s...hungry. Heyooo!
G Blake Smith, 6’6’’ Freshman: Uh, I think? I mean, he’s on the roster. He doesn’t appear on 247 at all. InsideNU describes him as “6-foot-6 guard who did track in high school.” So if Chris Collins needs someone to run the 200 during the game, he found his man.
MNWildcat: Hooray, probably one more season of Chris Collins. If you’re wondering how things are going, in the offseason, Pete Nance, perennial underwhelming 6’10” NBA prospect, transferred to North Carolina. Following him to Tobacco Road was journeyman center and that guy at your local YMCA pickup game Ryan Young, who somehow made it to Duke. Yeah, that Duke. Okay, so that’s the entirety of the Northwestern front court basically gone. But at least we’ve got all our guards, right? Well, the likely 6th man for Northwestern, guard Casey Simmons, transferred out this August. To Yale. In the offseason Chris Collins notably explained away Northwestern’s transfers by saying...
“I guess when you lose one to Duke and one to North Carolina, you’re developing well,” Collins said of Nance and Young’s transfers.— Alex Cervantes (@CervantesPAlex) October 6, 2022
We are a developmental program apparently. Developing backup centers for Duke, developing backup power forwards for North Carolina, developing starting guards for Yale. That, and one NCAA tournament appearance, will be Chris Collins’s legacy. But, when November rolls around, I’m going to be so excited that Northwestern basketball gives me something to watch that is not this god-awful football team. I love Welsh Ryan when it’s rocking; I love some of the quirky and annoying things that Northwestern basketball historically has done to the powers of the Big Ten. But that joy is gone around this program. It is a collection of chuckers and stretch fours who don’t appear to play any kind of organized basketball that will succeed in the Big Ten. This year it will include a pair of untested forwards in Luke Hunger and Tydus Verhoven and marginal Big Ten player Robbie Beran. I’m sure that front line will stop whatever behemoths Purdue and Illinois and even Wisconsin or Indiana roll out. This is going to be a disaster, but it would be so nice if it were at least a fun kind of disaster. Play high scoring games or grit out 55-52 games that nobody enjoys but a small, committed cohort of morons like myself. I don’t care, I just want to enjoy Northwestern basketball again. And, much like the last few years of Northwestern basketball: while there are a few compelling storylines or players to root for individually, this team looks once again to be less than the sum of its parts. If Chris Collins can change that? Maybe, just maybe there’s hope yet.
BoilerUp89: Northwestern will be an offense that doesn’t turn the ball over but that doesn’t shoot it very well. The bigger issues are depth, rebounding, and defense. For the Wildcats to make some noise this season, Beran will need to be more involved in the offense and the sophomore duo of Roper and Barnhizer will need to show improvement.
MNWildcat (who has more to say): The problem with depth and rebounding is that those are problems Collins has allowed to compound over the years. After Dererk Pardon, Young was supposed to be a serviceable Big Ten center. He is now gone. Beran is about it in terms of proven rebounding, and the rest of it is just kind of a big shrug. This is a front court that would maaaaybe compete in the A10. With few exceptions, to be competitive in this league, you need some size and some rebounding. Northwestern has nothing proven in those categories. By design, it was always supposed to be a lineup of stretch threes and fours who could slash and shoot. That, uh..
MaximumSam: Man, I’m not seeing it this year. I liked Pete Nance a lot last year, and thought he was a real NBA prospect. It never really worked, and now he’s at North Carolina. What’s left doesn’t look very promising, and if I was predicting I’d say they will finish dead last in the conference. They are experienced, which is worth something, and you might see some leaps from Roper and Barnhizer. But if not, it’s a lot of Boo Buie and not much else. Normally I’d try to talk fans away from the ledge, but the hopeless feeling is deserved in Evanston.
Inside the Hall: Buie is one of the best guards in the league, but the rest of the pieces on the roster are largely unproven. The frontcourt rotation is the biggest concern given the number of productive big men in the conference. It would be a major surprise to see Northwestern finish higher than 10th in the Big Ten.
Daily Hoosier: 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.