The 2020-2021 Northwestern men’s basketball season has been nothing short of a roller coaster. Starting off 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten with wins over Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State, the Wildcats were first in the Big Ten and as high as No. 14 in the AP poll.
The remaining part of the season has been a completely different story. Eleven straight losses later, Northwestern is unranked, 13th in the Big Ten and has not won a game in 2021. Besides the losses, the team has just not clicked like it once did in 2020 and makes fans wonder what good can be said about this basketball team?
However, there have been some positive takeaways, even from this devastating stretch.
First, players like Pete Nance, Miller Kopp, Boo Buie and Chase Audige have all shined in their own respective games. Pete Nance was fantastic against Luka Garza and Iowa, dropping a combined 37 points and 13 rebounds on the almost-certain Wooten Award winner.
Miller Kopp’s three-point shooting has been integral to the Wildcats even throughout their struggles, as he is shooting just under 39% from three and a career-high 44% from the field. Boo Buie, even with his sporadic game-to-game performance, is averaging two more assists per game compared to 2019 on just one more minute per game. Chase Audige shows the world every game that he can be the best player on the floor whenever he wants, seemingly turning it on for five minutes every game and making every shot he takes.
Second, the teams the ‘Cats have played during their 11-game losing streak are not ones to scoff at. Iowa is 11th in the country; Michigan is third; Illinois is fifth; Wisconsin is 21st. While Penn State, Purdue, Indiana and Rutgers are unranked, they all have arguments to make the top 25 and the NCAA tournament. Northwestern has not played its best basketball, but the teams it has played are certainly some of the best in the country.
Lastly, the five-out system Collins instituted at the beginning of the year has proven itself successful. Northwestern’s pace and offensive rating have increased from last year in large part due to the modified role Pete Nance plays in the Wildcats’ offense. If Collins were to emphasize Nance’s passing abilities combined with his perimeter shooting and inside play like he did to start off the season, NU should be able to pick up right where it left off in its last win against Ohio State on the 26th of December.
No matter what happens to end the disappointing 2020-2021 season that Northwestern basketball has had, there are still good things to internalize and recognize about the Wildcats. For the time being though, Northwestern fans will have to wait until next year for a true shot at making the NCAA tournament.