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Inside NU mailbag: Goodbye, farewell from the editors-in-chief

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

After about 12 months as editors-in-chief at Inside NU, we — Caleb Friedman and Davis Rich — are officially stepping down today. The past year has been exciting, rewarding and fun, in large part thanks to you all: the readers, listeners and commenters who make Inside NU a close-knit community that lives and dies by Northwestern sports together.

We’re not going away forever. Davis will stay on in the spring, Caleb will return in the fall and we sure won’t stop following Northwestern anytime soon.

This leadership transition is an annual one for Inside NU, and we’ve been preparing to hand off the site for a little while now. We’re incredibly excited to hand over editorial and managerial control of the site to Noah Coffman, who has watched more Northwestern sports than just about any student on campus. Joe Weinberg and Avery Zimmerman will help Noah as managing editors, and a bunch of other talented writers will get more opportunities to make their mark on the site.

Before we bid you all farewell from our role as EICs, we have one final mailbag for you. Here goes nothing...

Dan Alessandro: If you took Stephen Curry right now and put him on the NU bball team, how far do they make it in March Madness?

Davis: To the national championship, where a Zion Williamson hip-check sends Steph careening into the fifth row midway through the first half. Without No. 30, Northwestern scores five points for the rest of the game — three on a Vic Law banked three-pointer and two on a Barret Benson 15-footer.

Caleb: National Championship. Steph is an NBA MVP, and he plays the position Northwestern needs most. Steph took Davidson to the Elite 8, and he a better player now than he was then.

Martin Oppegaard: Could a starting five of @pkelley01 and the four transfers under Collins (Falzon, Brown, Ivanauskas and Vassar) win a conference championship? And since the answer is yes, what is the best conference they would win? Assume standard bench depth and an inspiring head coach.

Caleb: This question was asked before Jordan Ash and Barret Benson announced their intentions to transfer, so I’ll count them in here too. Definitely Patriot League, at a minimum. I think Atlantic 10 is pushing it here, so Patriot, Ivy League and America East seem like good possibilities.

Davis: We know a team of Rap, Isiah Brown, Aaron Falzon, Jordan Ash, and Barret Benson would probably win the Patriot League, which is 21st-best conference in the country by Adjusted Efficiency Margin. Climbing our way up the ladder, the Atlantic Sun, Big South, and Horizon League aren’t much better. I think this team would probably level out around the Missouri Valley Conference, which has some very talented players. Ivanauskas and Brown can score a bunch and the former Wildcats make some noise against the likes of Loyola Chicago, Drake and Bradley, but the NU expats can’t quite get over the hump.

Tristan Jung: What is the best meal you can buy under $15 in any of the places you’ve traveled to for work, or Evanston?

Davis: 99 Cent Express Pizza can’t be the best cheap New York pizza place in Manhattan, but two massive slices of sausage pizza could not have tasted better on the night before the 2018 Big Ten Tournament. I could have said any of the hole-in-the-wall pizza places we ate at in NYC that weekend, but this is the only establishment whose name I will remember.

In Evanston, it has to be Tomate. The Nebraska game was the only home game I went to as a student in 2018. I left early in disgust this fall after another draw to Solomon Vault on third-and-long. Hungry and grumbling about NU’s impending 2-4 start, I picked up the only thing I knew would lift my spirits — a $6 carne asada burrito from the little Guatemalan restaurant on Noyes Street. I will never forget sitting down on the sidewalk on Maple Ave, my half-eaten burrito in one hand and my phone in the other as I watched Drew Luckenbaugh knock through the game-winning field goal in overtime. The burrito was damn good.

Caleb: We went to a place called Need Pizza while staying in Cedar Rapids before the Northwestern-Iowa football game, and it was awesome. We later learned that USA Today dubbed it the best pizza in Iowa, and it had awesome thin crust slices and a great beer selection.

In Evanston, I’ll go with Edzo’s. A double burger and specialty fries comes in right around $15, so it’s not super cheap, but it gets the job done, and then some. A shake will probably take you over $15, but you won’t regret it.

Garrett Matsuda: is chris collins the future?

Caleb: Yes, mostly because his contract means he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’m skeptical of Collins’s offensive prowess as a head coach, but I’m also a believer in his ability as a recruiter. He got Northwestern to the Tournament, and he got a new arena and new practice facilities, which will be huge chips to have in recruiting. The last two years have been disappointing, and a recent string of transfers do not reflect well, but, realistically, all but Benson aren’t real surprises. I believe Collins will get Northwestern to another NCAA Tournament, though it may come a few years down the road.

Davis: Yes, the short-term and medium-term future. Let’s not forget that Northwestern basketball is just coming into the modern era. Chris Collins is the first modern NU basketball coach with even moderately successful recruiting results. The renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena means that NU finally has the facility to compete with the rest of the Big Ten. NU’s 2017 NCAA Tournament appearance elevated the program to a national spotlight, albeit a pretty brief one. Program-building does not happen overnight. 2018-19 was certainly a setback, and the lack of roster continuity and Collins’ apparently inability to coax a competent offense out of his players is concerning. Still, this program has not bloomed yet, and Collins has earned a couple more years to see what the seeds of 2017 yield.

@rbaim1: How many more seasons does Collins get before he’s gone? And who replaces him?

Caleb: I think he has three more seasons, pretty much no matter what. Obviously, a scandal or three-straight winless seasons would change that, but it would cost Northwestern a boatload of money to fire him. Also, to all the people saying Pat Baldwin should coach Northwestern, Baldwin’s record at Milwaukee is 25-39. I’m not really sure who Northwestern could get that’s better than Collins.

Davis: At the very least, Collins will get the chance to usher his 2018 recruiting class through college. Like Caleb said, it’s hard to see a better coach for NU than Collins, despite the struggles of 2018-19. After all, Collins has brought in three of the top five recruits in modern NU history in the past two recruiting classes. He’ll get some time to develop the young talent he recruited. If Miller Kopp, Pete Nance, and Robbie Beran follow the paths of Rapolas Ivanauskas, Barret Benson, and Aaron Falzon, there might be a different conversation.

Ross Jacobson: What is one bold prediction about Northwestern sports five years from now?

Caleb: Basketball becomes more perennially successful than football. I know this seems outlandish given both programs recent seasons, but I still think there’s a cap to Northwestern’s football potential that doesn’t exist with basketball. Realistically, Ryan Field will never be full with Northwestern fans, whereas it doesn’t take much to fill up cozy Welsh-Ryan Arena. This isn’t a knock on Fitz — he’s done an incredible job in Evanston — but I think Northwestern basketball has fewer obstacles to becoming an annual contender in the Big Ten. Fitz can’t out-perform S&P+ forever, right?

Davis: Ultimate frisbee becomes an NCAA varsity sport and Northwestern’s ultimate frisbee program is one of the best in the country. Ultimate has applied (and failed) to become an Olympic sport, so maybe college athletics is the next best bet. NU has two ultimate teams that work incredibly hard and are very successful so the transition would be natural. Plus, imagine ultimate frisbee games on windy days on Lakeside Field. It would be utter chaos, but probably more enjoyable to watch than NU’s motion offense.

@WoggyD: What is the most important thing you learned never to ask a coach?

Caleb: Never ask Fitz about what “critics” are saying. He doesn’t care. The “critics” are usually complaining about play-calling, and for good reason, but that’s a non-starter at a press conference. Also, be informed. Fitz and Chris Collins are generally nice and accommodating to young journalists, but they’re also quick to point out when you get something wrong or say something misinformed. Usually, though, if you stick to X’s and O’s and what’s important, Fitz and Collins are good interviewees.

Bob Norris: How many times have you been to see the Waa-Mu Show?

Caleb: 0.

Davis: I haven’t been. Looks like I should block out one night in May, I guess. No better way to end this mailbag ...