Brooks Barnhizer and Matthew Nicholson set up for the inbound play. Both players will be crucial for next year's team if they want to repeat this year's success. Photo by AJ Anderson / North by Northwestern

With the 2023-24 men’s basketball season all wrapped up, NBN Sports decided to take a look back and reflect on what has been another great season and discuss how the Wildcats can keep the ball rolling for next year.

Editor’s note: The interview in this article has been edited and condensed for clarity.

How do you think Coach Collins performed this year?

AJ Anderson: Collins showed us that he knows what he’s doing. His keeping the team afloat with all of the injuries sustained this year was no small feat. I used to be a Collins hater in my early years at Northwestern; consider me reformed.

Maggie Rose Baron: He proved that last year wasn't a fluke, that's all I have to say.

Mariana Bermudez: With a refined roster and the return of Boo Buie for his fifth and final year, Collins was able to maintain a strong team coming into a season filled with high expectations for the Wildcats. Although not selected as Big Ten Coach of the Year, he was the best for a team and a school with a mission: to play in March Madness for two consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

What are your thoughts on Boo Buie's final stand?

AJ: My fellow fifth-year, hailing from the same first-year PA group! I’m glad he gave it one last run. Becoming Northwestern’s all-time leader in points and leading the team to another March Madness appearance was what the fans saw, but his maturity and leadership behind the scenes most certainly held this team together for that run.

Maggie Rose: What a season, and what a way to go out. It'll be so different without him on the team next year but I can't wait to see what he does at the next level.

Mariana: He came to take the team back to March Madness and he kept his promise. Being a team leader on and off the court, Buie kept his momentum going. Is there something he can't do? I'll wait.

What do you make of Brooks Barnhizer?

AJ: I’ve been a Brooks Barnhizer stan since the beginning. I absolutely love his game; he’s a walking double-double. He’s testing the NBA waters right now, and while I think he’ll be back at NU for his fourth year, NBA feedback will be good for his growth.

Maggie Rose: I was so impressed with how he played this year. It seemed like he never had an off game, because he does so much for the team besides scoring.

Mariana: He was a player we had to keep our eyes on in every game of this season. I mean, scoring 29 points in an exhibition game against McKendree? He was a key player this season, starting all 34 games. I can't wait to see what he does next season.

Who was your favorite player not named Buie or Barnhizer?

AJ: I’ll go with Ty Berry. It’s a bummer he got injured in January and missed March Madness, but thank goodness he decided to return for a fifth year. His three-point shooting improved drastically this season. I mean, he was one of the best from beyond the arc in the country before the injury. He was absolutely lethal from deep. We don’t take Purdue to overtime twice without his scoring. He’ll be crucial for this team’s success next year. Honorable mention- Justin Mullins. When he played, he played hard.

Maggie Rose: Nick Martinelli stepped up in a big way this year! Excited to see how that continues next year.

Mariana: Have to give credit to Ryan Langborg. Coming in as a transfer, he was a valuable addition to the team. He knew to provide outstanding three-pointers when they were needed.

What was your reaction to beating then-No.1 Purdue?

AJ: I was once again blessed to watch us defeat #1 Purdue for the second time in two seasons. All I have to say is that in the past three major men’s sporting events that Purdue has played in Evanston, the playing surface was stormed – the court for both basketball games and the football field in November when we achieved our sixth win to make us bowl eligible. We’re in their heads; Purdue fans have nightmares about playing at Northwestern.

Maggie Rose: It was just an amazing way for the team to show early on that they were just as good and playing just as hard as last year. Also, I've never been more stressed in my life than in the final minutes of that game.

Mariana: I will always remember that day: Dec. 1, 2023. With back-and-forth play, an exhilarating crowd and a dramatic overtime end... What more could you have asked for?  Whether you stormed the court at Welsh-Ryan or screamed at the television, this game was definitely the talk of the season.

What did you think of witnessing consecutive March Madness appearances?

AJ: Last year Sacramento and this year Brooklyn? Oh, Northwestern men’s basketball, you spoil us. I had the time of my life watching those games in person, though I’ll tell you, I did miss Brooks’ game-tying shot against FAU because I was so stressed that I couldn’t watch. Also let the record show that we only lost to eventual champion UConn by a respectable 17 points, unlike another unnamed Big Ten school *cough* Illinois *cough*.

Maggie Rose: It was so exciting, obviously. The overtime run against Florida Atlantic was absolutely beautiful. I wish we'd played better in the first half against UConn, because we outscored them in the second, but with that being said it was a great overall performance against such a dominant team.

Mariana: This team wanted to dance once again and dance they did! I would have liked to see them make it to their first-ever Sweet 16, but UConn did not make it easy.

Which uniforms were your favorite ?

AJ: My favorites were the white Chicago-themed ones. I need a Barnhizer jersey in that colorway.

Maggie Rose: I'm such a fan of the Gothic uniforms.

Mariana: I have to go with the black and gold kit, it gave the team so much class.

What are your thoughts on student support?

AJ: There was no controversial yelling this year, which is always great. The students made Welsh-Ryan one of the most exciting places to play, and one of the toughest as well. Both Purdue and Illinois fell in overtime with the help of the students.

Maggie Rose: 15-2 at home? You can't do that without some serious support from the student section.

Mariana: They showed up and showed out throughout the season. You can't talk about NU basketball without talking about the incredible people in the audience, especially the iconic student section.

What expectations do you have for next year?

AJ: Even without Buie and Langborg, I do believe this team is talented enough to make the NCAA for a third straight year, maybe as a 10 or 11 seed. A starting lineup of Barnhizer, Berry, Matthew Nicholson, Martinelli and potentially new transfer guard Jalen Leach from Fairfield, who should provide an excellent guard option, is exciting.

Maggie Rose: With both Ty Berry and Matthew Nicholson returning, I have a good feeling about next year. Also, the number of injuries the team suffered and continued to fight back from bode well for next season, because we're going to see players continue to step up just like they did when the going was tough this year. The team has a great foundation and a lot of experienced players who know what it's like to play at a high level and under a lot of pressure.

Mariana: Definitely want to see what this team is capable of doing now that Boo Buie will not be on the roster. Hopefully, the return of Ty Berry and Matthew Nicholson for their fifth seasons can maintain this team afloat.

Thoughts on the team and this past season as a whole?

AJ: I am very pleased and grateful to be in the golden era of Northwestern basketball right now, one that someday we’ll look back on and think “Man, those were great years.” Buie gave us everything he had, and I can’t thank him enough. These guys played their hearts out this year, and it’s that heart and fight they have in them that I think will help them continue to reach new heights.

Maggie Rose: It was so exciting to have two great seasons in a row. It makes it feel like it's really possible for the program to have long-lasting success, and I'll just be grateful if that success continues.

Mariana: As a first-year, a second 22-12 season was extremely impressive for me. Getting to attend games at Welsh Ryan and seeing what the Boo Buie hype was all about was exciting. I definitely think this team had more highs than lows this season.