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Northwestern isn't Up-Tempo, and that's Okay

When Chris Collins was hired to replace Bill Carmody, the prospect of finally having an exciting basketball team in Welsh-Ryan had fans salivating for the start of the "NUEra." Of course, Carmody's lack of success played a role in the excitement surrounding a new coach, but Collins' promise to bring up-tempo, non-Princeton offense basketball to Evanston sweetened the deal.

The only thing is, NU has basically been the opposite of up-tempo this year.

There are a couple of caveats here. 1) Every coach says they're going to play up-tempo at their new job, then gets praised for it. However, most of them don't actually play up-tempo. 2) You have to give Collins time to recruit his players before you call him a liar.

Still, many fans have praised Collins for playing "exciting, up-tempo basketball," and that just isn't true in his first year. The Wildcats rank 321st nationally in adjusted tempo in the KenPom ratings and rank 11th in the Big Ten, at 62.6 possessions per 40 min., during conference play. In Sunday's win against Illinois, NU had just 57.6 possessions.

But that's not a bad thing.

To many people, up-tempo is synonymous with good, but that's not necessarily true and it's especially not true for teams that aren't built to run up-tempo. The top five teams in KenPom's ratings prove that:

1. Arizona (293rd in possessions per 40 min.)
2. Wisconsin (303rd)
3. Syracuse (345th)
4. Villanova (89th)
5. Iowa (14th)

Go at the pace that fits your team — don't just go fast to go fast. More important is efficiency, and it's important to note that all five of those teams, regardless of tempo, rank in the top 22 in offensive efficiency, and three of them are in the top five. (Notable: Duke's teams in recent years have averaged around 100th nationally in tempo.)

Northwestern still has a lot to improve when it comes to offensive efficiency, but a slow tempo is perfect for this team. The Wildcats are going to get blown out if they get into a track meet, so why not slow down the game? It worked against Illinois, despite the offense being inefficient, and considering the offense's inability to be efficient in any type of tempo, there's a good chance we'll see the slow-down game again.

“I think based upon who we’re playing, we might have to do that even more,” Collins said after the game.

Maybe NU will eventually have the personnel to play fast, but that's not very important. Efficient offenses are more fun to watch than bad, fast offenses.

And if the Wildcats don't pick up the pace, don't fret. If Collins coaches this team how he says he will, you'll get plenty of practice watching slow basketball this season. Plus, the hope for the future isn't necessarily faster basketball, it's better basketball.