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Big Ten men’s basketball team preview: Northwestern Wildcats

Chris Collins has now been the Northwestern coach for a decade. Will anything change this season?

Northern Illinois v Northwestern Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Team: Northwestern Wildcats
Coach: Chris Collins (10th season)
2021-22 record: 15-16 (7-13)
Season finish: No postseason

Players returning: Boo Buie, Chase Audige, Ty Berry, Robbie Beran, Julian Roper II, Brooks Barnhizer, Matthew Nicholson

Players departed: Ryan Young (Duke), Pete Nance (North Carolina), Casey Simmons

Key additions: Tydus Verhoeven (UTEP), Luke Hunger, Nick Martinelli


Northwestern is returning two very capable guards to help run their offense, but losing Ryan Young to Duke and Pete Nance to North Carolina hurts their frontcourt seriously, and the Wildcats did not do enough in the offseason to replace that production.

“We are going to have a younger front court,” head coach Chris Collins said at Big Ten Media Day. “I’m anxious to see what those guys can do. A lot of new faces that are going to get opportunity. That’s kind of what college basketball is about, really. There are a lot of teams in this league that have lost guys that have been mainstays. It’s opportunity for other guys to step up. Certainly we’re going to need those guys to do their part.”

As mentioned, Boo Buie and Chase Audige are back in Evanston. Buie averaged 14.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Audige averaged 9.8 points and 4.2 boards.

Pete Nance is gone to Chapel Hill after averaging 14.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Ryan Young averaged 9.0 points and 4.2 boards.

Robbie Beran, a former top 100 recruit out of high school, averaged 6.4 points and 4.3 rebounds last season. Beran is off to a hot start this season, averaging 17.5 points, 6.0 boards and two blocks per contest in the Wildcats first two games of the new campaign.

The Wildcats are off to a 2-0 start and have looked solid, but have yet to play any teams that should give them trouble. As expected, Buie, Berry, Beran and Audige have all averaged over 32 minutes a game.

X Factor

Boo Buie. Buie is the best returning player for the Wildcats along with Chase Audige. Buie is the lone double-digit scorer returning for Northwestern with the loss of Nance. The senior guard and younger brother of former Penn State standout Talor Battle will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to be a 15–18 point scorer.

Buie is an incredibly capable player, and should be able to garner some postseason all-conference votes, but he is much better with scorers around him — a luxury he does not have that much this season. He will need to create his own offense more than he ever has in his final season in Evanston.

A nice honorable mention for this is Robbie Beran. Beran hasn’t been the force the Wildcats have expected out of a top 100 recruit so far in his career, but with Young and Nance gone, Beran will have to be a force in the frontcourt for the Wildcats.


Northwestern is a similar team as last season, but they lost more than they added. Chris Collins hasn’t been bad in Evanston, but he has not been able to put together a team that can make the tournament in a conference like the Big Ten, and this season will be no different. Buie, Audige, Berry and Beran are all capable players that can win some games, but there is not a lot of depth here and a lot of unproven talent.

It says something about a team when you have two players transfer to Duke and North Carolina in the same season, but for the Wildcats it only amounted to 15 wins in 2021-22, and they did not add enough to replace guys with the talent of Young and Nance. Beran and Berry have to continue to produce at a high level and take some of the scoring pressure off of Buie and Audige.

However, with the Wildcats inexperience and lack of depth, it is hard to view them as anything else but a five to seven game winner in conference play. It would be shocking if they made a tournament run this season.