With a new college basketball season approaching, BTPowerhouse will continue to preview the 2017-18 season, this time featuring the Northwestern Wildcats. After a historic season, basketball fans are expecting the Wildcats to return to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
This year’s team has high expectations, unusual for Northwestern. The Wildcats will also be dealing with unusual issues throughout the season. The team will play home games at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont and practice at the Blomquist Recreation Center near campus. That said, let’s take a look at three intriguing storylines surrounding the team heading into the new season.
Will Northwestern win the Hall of Fame Tip Off?
Northwestern will participate in a marquee non-conference tournament for the second straight season. Last year, the Wildcats fell short in the Legends Classic, losing to Notre Dame in the championship game. This year, the Wildcats will play in the Hall of Fame Tip Off.
Winning the Hall of Fame Tip Off title would be encouraging for a team that has plenty of pressure coming off of a NCAA Tournament bid. The Wildcats will be the favorite in the tournament, the rest of the field includes Boston College, LaSalle, Maine, Sacred Heart, Saint Peter’s, South Alabama and Texas Tech. Chris Collins and company will take on LaSalle in the first round. Winning the tournament would be a great NCAA Tournament resume booster.
Will Northwestern finish with a better record than last season?
Northwestern finished with a record of 24-12 last year. Surpassing that mark is achievable. If the Wildcats are able to win the Hall of Fame Tip Off, the team will have plenty of momentum for the rest of the non-conference season. The Wildcats will also take on Creighton at home, that game is arguably their toughest test on their non-conference slate.
Collins did a fine job with this season’s non-conference schedule. The team will take on Georgia Tech and Oklahoma on the road. Both games are winnable against respectable programs. With a favorable non-conference slate, the Wildcats could only have one-to-two losses heading into the Big Ten season, and that bodes well for this team finishing with a better record than last season.
At the moment, Northwestern should be pencilled in as a top 5 team in the Big Ten. Last season, the team finished with a record of 10-8, but don’t be surprised if this team continues improve this season, considering that the team gained valuable postseason experience and returned nearly every key player from last season. The improvement of record would result in this year’s team having 25 wins or more, which will most likely result in a better seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Is this the best Northwestern team of all-time?
It very well could be. After a historic 2016-17 season, this team now has the experience and balance to make a run at the Big Ten title. The only rotation players missing from last year are Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn. The team’s four best players are back. And don’t forget about sophomores Isaiah Brown and Barrett Benson, both should be ready to be consistent contributors off the bench. And by the way, Collins is a fantastic coach.
A very exciting season is coming for Northwestern fans.