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2023-’24 Northwestern Wildcats Basketball Season Preview

BTPowerhouse previews the upcoming season for the Iowa Wildcats and what fans should expect from the program heading into the 2023-24 season.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - Northwestern vs Penn State Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023-24 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview’ series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2023-24 season with analysis on each program’s previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team’s starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local “insider” who covers said team.

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Northwestern went through something of a breakthrough last season powered largely by a defensive mentality and an experienced backcourt of Boo Buie and Chase Audige. The Wildcats rode that momentum to a 3-0 record against the top two finishers in the league and a second-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament.

With Buie back for one last ride, Northwestern will look to maintain its momentum from last season and repeat as a tournament team.

1. 2022-23 Season Performance

  • Record: 22-12 (12-8, 3rd in Big Ten)
  • KenPom ranking: No. 38
  • NET ranking: No. 37
  • Postseason: NCAA Tournament Second Round

2. Offseason exits

  • G Chase Audige
  • F Robbie Beran
  • G Roy Dixon III
  • G Julian Roper
  • F Tydus Verhoeven

Chase Audige, now in the NBA, was one of the best individual defenders in the league and was a key anchor to Northwestern’s wins over Purdue and Indiana last season. That’s a loss to be made up for.

Verhoeven did what he needed to do against Big Ten bigs down low. Robbie Beran transferred to Virginia Tech after averaging 7.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 25.8 minutes per game for the Cats. Roper suffered an injury during the season before transferring. Roy Dixon III and saw minimal playing time overall.

It was a decently long list for Chris Collins to replace.

3. New Additions


  • G Ryan Langborg
  • F Justin Mullins
  • C Blake Preston


  • G Jordan Clayton
  • G Parker Strauss
  • F Blake Barkley

Northwestern will need to find a way to replace two members of its primary lineup in Audige and Verhoeven. Ty Berry will start next to Boo Buie in the backcourt with Princeton transfer Ryan Langborg factoring into that rotation.

Langborg will also factor into the void left by Audige at the three with Nick Martinelli. Expect Liberty transfer Blake Preston to be in the rotation for the five with Matthew Nicholson.

4. Points of Optimism

You literally can’t be coming off of a better season at Northwestern than Chris Collins just did. He earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors and locked up a contract extension after his team put up a respectable fight with UCLA in the second round of the tournament.

Not only did the Wildcats finish third in the league, they had a perfect record against the two teams above them in the standings. They took some losses they probably shouldn’t have but literally every team in the conference did that too.

A decent amount of that team is back too, Boo Buie most importantly. Without him Northwestern probably couldn’t hope to get close to last season’s highs.

With Ty Berry, Brooks Barnhizer, Nick Martinelli and Matthew Nicholson back in the fold, the Cats should field a respectable overall team next year. They added enough rotation pieces in the portal to avoid rocking the boat too much and I’d expect Chris Collins to lean on the experience that got him paid.

Also, Welsh-Ryan became a legitimately difficult place to play rather than an away arena when the team was winning games and students were showing up. Northwestern needs to capitalize on that energy off the court to make sure they’re showing up again early and often.

5. Points of Concern

Northwestern is going to need to find someone to inherit the Audige role on the defensive end of the court. The Cats’ defense ranked 22nd nationally in efficiency while the offense lagged behind at 88th.

They were winning games with that stifling defense and scoring just enough points. That’s the formula they’re going to have to follow this year and they’ll be doing it without last year’s top on-ball defender.

I think the Cats have enough pieces to field something good and win enough league games but a few wrong moves or bad chemistry and they could just regress to the mean.

6. Top Player

Boo Buie. Bar none.

Buie was the team’s best player last year and has a case for being the best guard in the conference as a whole heading into 2022-23. He’s a good facilitator and can score himself if need be.

Without any clear second star and a need at that spot, he’ll be asked to shoulder even more of the load on offense as Northwestern needs to keep up with league competition.

7. 2022-23 Schedule Breakdown

Non-Conference Schedule

  • 11/6 - Binghamton
  • 11/10 - Dayton
  • 11/14 - Western Michigan
  • 11/18 - Rhode Island (neutral)
  • 11/19 - Mississippi State OR Washington State (neutral)
  • 11/27 - Northern Illinois
  • 12/10 - Detroit Mercy
  • 12/16 - at DePaul
  • 12/20 - Arizona State (neutral)
  • 12/29 - Jackson State

Alright Northwestern’s nonconference slate isn’t exactly a murderer’s row of top programs from around the country.

The best team here is probably Mississippi State. Arizona State could have a decent case too but just about every one of these games but those two, or Wazzu maybe, should be sound wins with a talent like Boo Buie on the roster.

Conference Schedule

  • 12/1 - Purdue
  • 1/2 - at Illinois
  • 1/7 - Michigan State
  • 1/10 - at Penn State
  • 1/13 - at Wisconsin
  • 1/17 - Maryland
  • 1/20 - at Nebraska
  • 1/24 - Illinois
  • 1/27 - Ohio State
  • 1/31 - at Purdue
  • 2/3 - at Minnesota
  • 2/8 - at Penn State
  • 2/7 - Nebraska
  • 2/11 - Penn State
  • 2/15 - at Rutgers
  • 2/18 - at Indiana
  • 2/22 - Michigan
  • 2/28 at Maryland
  • 3/2 - Iowa
  • 3/6 - at Michigan State
  • 3/9 - Minnesota
  • 3/13-17 - Big Ten Tournament

Northwestern absolutely has to have Welsh-Ryan ready for that Purdue game to open the schedule. That entire squad is back and they’re gonna want revenge for what happened there last year.

Upon first glance this schedule doesn’t exactly look favorable for the Cats.

Here’s a few stretches that stick out:

  • 12/1 - Purdue
  • 1/2 - at Illinois
  • 1/7 - Michigan State

  • 1/13 - at Wisconsin
  • 1/17 - Maryland
  • 1/20 - at Nebraska
  • 1/24 - Illinois

You will notice this is pretty much just how they open conference play.

That first stretch is hardly a stretch because there’s a month between Purdue and Illinois but those could be the top three teams in the league when all is said and done and opening with all three at once is an extremely rough way to start the Big Ten slate.

Not long after that Northwestern has to brave the horrors of the Kohl Center at Wisconsin, welcome a good Maryland team, go on the road to face an interesting Nebraska team and come back home to find that Illinois team from before waiting for them

Not great. If Northwestern can’t mitigate the losses early on they could spiral. I’m not saying they’ll need to sweep these teams, just keep their heads above water.

8. Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG: Boo Buie 100%
  • SG: Ty Berry 100%
  • SF: Nick Martinelli/Ryan Langborg 50%
  • PF: Brooks Barnhizer 80%
  • C: Matthew Nicholson 90%

(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)

I’m decently confident that this will be the group Collins rolls out with to start the season. He just needs to figure out who’s taking over at small forward and I’d say he’ll use the lesser nonconference games to figure that out.

9. Team Perspective from Daniel Olinger

For the first time since the 2017-18 season, Northwestern men’s basketball has high expectations, and the fanbase expects to make the tournament. Of course, that ‘17-18 team failed miserably despite bringing back the near entirety of an NCAA Tournament team, which kind of points to how unsustainable success can be at a program like NU. There’s fair reason to believe in this team. Boo Buie had a great season where he caught fire down the stretch last year, and he has the greatest advantage in college basketball here in year 5 — being old as dirt. Brooks Barnhizer went from uninspiring shooter to the team’s 3rd option last year and was trusted to iso and score for the team in several high leverage situations. Losing Chase Audige hurts, but with transfers Justin Mullins, Blake Preston and Ryan Langborg, Chris Collins should have a squad that goes 9-10 deep in Evanston.

So what’s a fair expectation? Probably for NU to go roughly 11-9 or 12-8 in conference again, which mind you was the difference between 2nd and 9th place in the Big Ten. Fans would be thrilled if the team just doesn’t fall off a cliff and remains competitive on a national level. They’re bound to not win as many close games as they did a season ago, and Buie’s whole schtick is that he makes these awkward short range floaters that aren’t usually sustainable for the whole offense. A 10-seed in the tournament and another fun year of home crowds at Big Ten games is what Northwestern wants, and what they’re expecting in the 2023-24 season.

10. Overall Season Outlook

Northwestern has enough experience and transfer talent to put something together here. The schedule, especially early in league play, isn’t favorable to them in their quest to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

The defense could regress without Audige anchoring that end of the court. Collins is gonna need to figure out who to run as the main go-to guy at the three and see if he can squeeze a bit more scoring out of that frontcourt. Buie is really gonna need some help getting points on the board.

They’ll need him to play out of his mind and at least 1-2 other guys to take a serious step forward on both ends of the floor to have a good shot here.

Projected Big Ten finish: 8th