Chris Collins was the Associate Head Coach under the legend Mike Krzyzewski since 2008 and an Assistant Coach for Duke since 2000. He helped the Blue Devils to a 356-72 record, including 8 ACC Tournament Championships and twice National Champions in 2001 and 2010.
He will, however, have his hands full at Northwestern. During the same stretch - the year 2000 to 2012-13 season - Northwestern, under Bill Carmody, never finished better the 5th in the Big Ten. The Wildcats finished 7th or worse in the other 12 seasons during Coach Carmody’s tenure in Evanston.
Northwestern is off to a 4-5 start on the season and is in the midst of a three game losing streak. The last three have been tough, going against Mizzou, UCLA and North Carolina State in the B1G/ACC challenge.
The Mizzou game surprised me. Going in, I did not figure the Wildcats would hang in - in fact I figured they would get beat up in this one. But Northwestern led by 5 at the half. That quickly changed from the start of the second, however. The Wildcats went scoreless for nearly 5 minutes to start the half, and quickly trailed by 9 before JerShon Cobb hit a jumper. Mizzou was able to maintain that lead for the rest of the contest (78-67), and are undefeated in 8 contests to date.
Next up for the Northwestern was UCLA. The Bruins are also undefeated, after taking the Wildcats down in a game that was never really in question. The Wildcats finished the game on a 14 to 5 run, but still lost by 16 points (95-71). Kyle Anderson had 16 points for the Bruins and was also the Tournament MVP. Notably, Drew Crawford did not play for Northwestern. The third loss in a row came at the hands of the Wolfpack in Raleigh, NC. The ACC picked up a win for the conference in this game, crushing Northwestern 69-48. NC State led the whole way, and by as many as 23 in the second half.
Wildcat 6’5" senior guard Drew Crawford is the leading scorer on the team with over 14 points per game this season. He is also averaging 7 rebounds but seems to battling injuries. Junior guard JerShon Cobb is off to a good start to the season, hitting the game winner against IUPUI and averaging almost 14 points per game. Cobb had his biggest games against the toughest opponents, scoring 22 points against Mizzou and UCLA.
The Future Looks Bright
The Wildcats roll out a redshirt freshman that continues to impress. Sanjay Lumpkins looks to be a big time player for the program, with great athleticism around the basket. The 6’6" forward from Minnesota is averaging over 5 points and 5 rebounds per game.
Recruiting has also spiked under the first year coach. The highlight of the 2014 class may be a 6’7" forward out of Chicago, Vic Law. The four star athlete, according to scout.com, is going to be joined by a pair of guards that look to be contributors early. 3 star athlete Bryant McIntosh (Greensburg, IN) and Scott Lindsey (Oak Park, IL) are joined by 3 star 6’9" forward Gavin Skelly from Westlake OH.
Northwestern, a Team That Always Seems To Be On the Bubble
Is this the year? Do they finally get over the hump and jump into the Big Dance? Short answer: No. As the season wears on, I see promise. But they are not there this season. They will be lucky to not finish last in the Big Ten this year. Even more-so, wins will be hard to come by in-conference.
My prediction on how the season finishes for Chris Collins first season in Evanston: 8-23 (2-16)
I, for one, will be rooting for Coach Collins to improve this team and get them to their first ever NCAA tournament appearance. It wont bet this year, but soon. The Big Ten is deep, but they could be even better when Northwestern starts to make some noise.