Northwestern basketball will look to improve in coach Chris Collins' second season at the helm. While the overall mark wasn't anything spectacular (14-19 overall, 6-12 in the B1G), the Wildcats managed a few promising results, particularly toward the end of the season. With another year of experience playing under Collins and a strong influx of talent, 2014-15 should be a fun year to be a fan of NU basketball. Here are three reasons to be excited about the upcoming season.
1. It's not football season
Not to be a downer, but being a fan of Northwestern football is probably doing more harm than good in my life right now. Since all eyes were on Evanston last year when ESPN College Gameday came to campus for the Oct. 5 contest against Ohio State, the 'Cats are 1-9 and 0-6 at Ryan Field. That's really, really terrible, and the Wildcats have found ways to lose that add insult to injury (the Nebraska and Michigan games from last year come to mind).
But sports fans are a loyal bunch, so we continue to love to root on our lovable 'Cats any time we get a chance to. Basketball season will give 'Cats fans an additional fix of Northwestern sports, and it'll be a welcomed change from the painful past year or so of football.
2. The freshmen
This year's recruiting class is the most talented in recent memory, with three- maybe even four- freshman likely to see significant minutes.
Vic Law will be one of the most talented players ever to play for Northwestern the moment he steps on the floor (read: most talented, not best), having featured in most recruiting site's top 100 players for the majority of his high school career. Bryan McIntosh is a 6-foot-3 point guard who should get a legitimate chance to start, especially if Collins prefers Tre Demps in a sixth man role, as he's suggested he does. Johnnie Vassar is a freakish athlete, Scottie Lindsey is a great shooter and Gavin Skelly has a body Chris Collins labeled "Big Ten ready."
These freshmen are the real deal, and it'll be interesting to see just how much they play and contribute this season. And if that Vassar video doesn't get you excited, I'm not sure anything else will.
3. Things are trending upward
NU won six games in Big Ten play last year, which was only a slight improvement from the four they managed in 2012-13 under Bill Carmody. But it's the quality — not the number — of wins that show Northwestern is improving under Chris Collins. Between Jan. 12 and Feb. 1, the 'Cats went 5-2 in Big Ten play with a win over then-No. 23 Illinois, a takedown of Indiana at historic Assembly Hall and an upset over Final Four-bound Wisconsin.
Though it was only a few weeks, those are legitimate wins over quality basketball teams that were far more talented than the 'Cats. Chris Collins is a big-time name, so the recruiting classes should continue to improve. With added talent, wins over ranked opponents should happen more and more often.
Pardon the cliché, but it truly is a NU era for Northwestern basketball. And that's exciting.