Northwestern men’s basketball team gave journalists plenty to talk about in 2023. Head coach Chris Collins earned B1G and national honors, guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige led the team in their final seasons at NU and the program had its second-ever trip to March Madness. Here’s what some of the NBN sports writers had to say about it.
Head coach Chris Collins
AJ Anderson: Sure, he coached up a very stout and aggressive defense, I'll give him his props there, but at the end of the day, this was a roster full of guys who were here through an unsuccessful 2021-22 season. I think it all just clicked with the players and they themselves willed this team to success. That said, Coach Collins now has a shiny new contract extension to prove to me that he can coach up a team from scratch and take us back to the dance again.
Miles French: I was a doubter at the beginning of the season, and Collins proved me wrong. Credit to Chris Lowery as well, but this year’s turnaround starts and ends with Collins. What happens in the years to come will show how much of this year’s credit belongs to him.
David Samson: Chris Collins saved his job, and probably his career with the team’s performance this season. He’s done well establishing a team culture of playing with extreme heart and passion for the game, even though he doesn’t get the most talented recruits. It will be interesting to see how this season affects recruiting and the team’s trajectory in the coming seasons.
Samson: Boo Buie was the heart and soul of this team. He was the one who you could almost always depend on. He’s the kind of point guard that coaches dream of because of his experience, basketball IQ and ability to take over a game when necessary. Without him, we are lucky to have half as many wins.
Anderson: This season does not happen without Boo Buie. End of story. Double-digit points in 27 of the last 28 games? You gotta be kidding me.
French: Forever my point guard. Took his game to the next level this year and seemed to always show up when the team needed him. Can’t wait to see what he does at the pro level, wherever he lands.
French: Healthy Chase is a star, we saw it this season. With his offensive potential paired with being one of the best defensive players in the country this year, he’s earned some attention from NBA teams.
Samson: Often seen as our #2 guy, Chase Audige had moments of brilliance, and moments that left us scratching our heads. In my opinion, he peaked too soon, and I don’t know if that’s a training issue or just fatigue from a long season. Overall, for someone consistently asked to play 35-38 minutes per game, you gotta respect everything Chase has given NU this season.
Anderson: DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT HE DID AT THE END OF THE PURDUE GAME OH MY GOD TWO THREES AND A SLAM DUNK AHHHHH.
Players not named Buie or Audige
Anderson: Big Brooks Barnhizer fan here. I'm very excited to see him step up next year like he did down the stretch of this year.
French: Robbie Beran was the glue of the defense and was woefully underappreciated and underplayed this year. I wish him the best of luck wherever he goes.
Samson: I want to give props to Nick Martinelli. He wasn’t really expected to play this season, but after injuries to Luke Hunger and Julian Roper he stepped up into an eighth man role. He allowed Collins to rest Boo and Chase so they’d be ready for the big moments of the games. While his offense is still developing, he plays extremely tough defense and is one of the best rebounders on the team. If he puts in the work to reach his full potential, I foresee Nick having a great sophomore season.
The win over then-No.1 Purdue
Samson: The win over Purdue was absolutely insane. I still can’t believe that was the ONE home game in the new year I didn’t go to (I’m not bitter though). Overall, this was what the NU community needed. The team played with such heart and emotion that we were able to accomplish what would have been deemed impossible in the pre-season. Pretty cool!!!
Anderson: SUCK IT PURDUE GO 'CATS GO 'CATS GO 'CATS!
French: This game was the mission statement of this year’s team. Good defense, Boo Buie masterclass and a “never say die” attitude. The last few minutes of that game are etched into my brain as a core memory.
Ranking in the Top 25 during the season
French: While I thought the team earned a ranking earlier than it came, glad to see them earn the recognition from the AP. If only they held onto it.
Samson: Yes we deserved a ranking, but I think we played better without one. This was a team that enjoyed being the underdog, and played best when there were no expectations and they could play fearless.
Anderson: We had the resume with our ranked wins, plus we won a tournament game. This was a top-25 team during the season.
Playing in March Madness
Anderson: OK so I was actually at the games and when I say it was hyped, I mean it was HYPED. Northwestern fans were everywhere; they traveled really well. And to win a game? Incredible. I still can't believe it.
Samson: Very fun, glad we won a game. I wished we could have had a stronger first half against UCLA, cause I think we really could’ve won.
French: The second ever tournament win for NU was nothing short of magical. As for the UCLA game, the Wildcats played one of the highest ranked teams in the tournament to a close game and I definitely won’t forever think of how the team could’ve won that game if they didn’t allow Jaime Jaquez Jr. to have that run late in the first half.
Personal favorite uniforms
Samson: Black gothic script, because it looks super cool and is a total power-move.
French: Gothic jerseys can’t be beat, no matter the sport.
Anderson: The Chicago jerseys, they were too clean.
Anderson: Miller Kopp aside, I think Wildside did a great job creating a tough atmosphere for opposing teams and it was the most energy I have ever seen in Welsh-Ryan over the past four years. People came to games. And watched them! I don't think you guys realize how big of a deal that is.
French: LET THE KIDS CHEER. I loved hearing all the chants, and hope the energy keeps rolling into next year. Also, NU Athletics, if you’re listening, open up more seats. do it.
NU to Pro player comparisons
French: Chase Audige reminds me a lot of Tony Allen before his injury. Stellar guard defender with a real possibility to develop as a scorer. Even post-injury Allen would be a great career path for Audige. Also if anyone reading this knows Tony Allen and how much praise this truly is for Audige, respect.
Anderson: Boo Buie is Damian Lillard without the range. Same attitude, same swagger, same clutch gene and (almost) just as fun to watch.
Next year anticipations
Anderson: I'm pretty sure we're going to fall off (sad) but can't wait for Brooks to drop 20 points per game.
French: The rotation will be thin and young, but proper jumps in production from Barnhizer, Berry, Nicholson, Martinelli and more should enable them to outperform expectations again. Also there’s still time COLLINS GO GET A TRANSFER I NEED MAX ABMAS AS A WILDCAT
The team & season as a whole
French: Watching a team that arguably had more talent than this year’s in 2021-22, you could tell in the body language how this year’s squad played with more passion and confidence. Special team, special year.
Anderson: Listen, I had to watch this team go 8-23 my freshman year, then 9-15 and 15-16 in the years that followed. The few fans who came would do homework in the stands. I've been to more games than I can probably count and watched them get blown out countless times. I needed this. The class of 2023 needed this. This team has come a long way and I'm really proud of them. Shout out to Boo who was in my first-year seminar (PA Group 134 stand up!) and as always, go 'Cats.
Samson: It was so much fun to watch! Definitely made the winter bearable. I worry that this will be the only time we’re good while I’m here, but honestly I’d be okay with that because this year was awesome.