Now that was a statement win! Who would have thought just a few weeks ago, the Northwestern Men’s basketball team could go up to the Kohl Center and beat a highly regarded Wisconsin team. On Wednesday night, the Cats did just that knocking off the Badgers 65-56. Don’t look now, but Chris Collins is building something special in Evanston.
Looking at the team rankings might make you want to barf. This team is 339th in points per game (61.6) and 332nd in field goal percentage (.397), yet they currently sit at .500 and 4-5 in Big Ten league play. One would think, how is that even possible in the toughest conference in the nation? Simple, Northwestern has a real coach sitting on their bench!
Chris Collins has done a masterful job taking a bunch of Bill Carmody’s misfits and molding them in to a legitimate Big 10 threat. Early on, Collins tried to incorporate some of his Duke principals he brought with him from Coach K, but with the talent on this squad, it wasn’t working. Early season losses to Illinois State and Depaul were tough to swallow. Instead, Collins shifted his game plan to a “Wisconsin” style plan; hold the ball and play tough defense. With this current group of players, Northwestern doesn’t have the ability to outscore their opponents in a shoot-out, they have to win ugly, and that’s exactly what they are doing.
Many people will look at the Illinois game as the turning point this season. While that was a huge win, and a major kick start to their current success, the real turning point was when point guard Dave Sobolewski got injured. I’m sure Dave’s a great guy, but he’s not a starter on a Big 10 basketball team. His shooting and poor ball handling was killing the Cats early on. With him being shelved, the Cats can now roll out their three top scorers on the court at the same time: Crawford, Cobb, and Demps. With Cobb at the point, the Cats have an athletic ball handler who can make things happen. Since Cobb’s move to point, the Cats are 4-2 in the Big 10.
There’s no doubt in my mind, Chris Collins has the Cats going in the right direction. To win on the road at Indiana and Wisconsin is as impressive as it gets. And the best news is, Collins has a dynamite recruiting class coming in next year. The Cats have already signed a highly recruited 4 star prospect in Victor Law, something Carmody was never able to accomplish. Collins has brought a breath of fresh air, and is doing it his way. Don’t be surprised to see this team competing for a Big 10 Championship in 3-4 year down the road. Collins has always had the ability to recruit, and now he’s showing he can coach too. Look out Fitz, you might soon be the second most popular coach on campus.