Northwestern’s 2021-2022 men’s basketball season was about as turbulent as imaginable. The team started 8-2; the ‘Cats then proceeded to go 7-14. With plenty of impact players out the door, it’ll be interesting to see how the Wildcats can handle their non-conference opponents in a tune-up for Big Ten play.
Nov. 7 vs. Chicago State
Northwestern opens its season against a Cougars team that finished with a 7-25 record a year ago. Led by head coach Gerald Gillion, who’s now entering his second season in the role, Chicago State offers the ‘Cats the chance to ease into the season. Gillion’s squad averaged a -12.3 scoring margin in 2021 against a set of opponents that, cautiously, are far worse than Northwestern.
Nov. 11 vs. Northern Illinois
Nine out of the 14 players on Northern Illinois’ roster are transfers, joining from schools like Tulsa, St. Bonaventure and Weber State. Northwestern will get a second straight game against a head coach entering his second year. Rashod Burno led his squad to a 9-21 split in his inaugural season, and he looks to improve in 2022.
Nov. 15 at Georgetown
The Cats’ schedule starts to ramp up when they visit the Hoyas in the nation’s capital. Yes, Patrick Ewing and Co. went 0-19 in conference play last season. Yes, they ended the year losing 21 straight. But still, at least Georgetown’s dismal record was at the hands of Big East opponents, like Villanova.
Nov. 18 vs. Purdue Ft. Wayne
The Mastodons are another step up for Chris Collins and his unit after finishing last season with a 21-12 record. Returning guard Jarred Godfrey will be the Wildcats’ biggest issue, considering he notched 15.3 points per game last season on top of a near 40% clip from three-point land. NU will have to step up against a team that was ranked 17th in the Mid-Major Preseason Top 25, according to CollegeInsider.com.
Nov. 22 at Liberty
Liberty will have already faced a ranked Alabama team prior to its matchup against Northwestern, suggesting the Flames be no stranger to high major competition. Darius McGhee, the team’s starting point guard, was recently included in the Bob Cousy Award Watch List, given to the best point guard in Division I basketball. Needless to say, the ‘Cats will have to gameplan a little extra for this one.
Northwestern will play either No. 15 Auburn or Bradley on Nov. 23 in the Cancun Challenge
Nov. 28 vs. Pitt
The Panthers will be an interesting matchup for NU, considering the similarities the two teams shared last season. Both finished with just-below 0.500 records against solid competition from high-major teams. The difference is that Pitt returns many of its more prolific players. Northwestern can’t say the same.
Dec. 11 vs. Prairie View A&M
Northwestern had about as opposite a start as possible compared to PVAM last season. The Wildcats picked up eight of their first 10. The Panthers didn’t earn a win until their 11th game. Unlike NU, however, the Panthers finished the season strong, clinching four of their final seven games. Guard Jeremiah Gambrell picked up the slack toward the end of 2021 and will be the focus of Chris Collins’ attention.
Dec. 17 vs DePaul
DePaul and Northwestern both curtained last season with a 15-16 record. However, if you place any value margin of victory, NU was more dominant by an additional two points per game. This matchup should serve as a good benchmark for Collins, allowing the team to measure up against a squad that’s in a similar position.
Dec. 20 vs UIC
The second team whose mascot is a flame on Northwestern’s schedule, UIC would be lucky to emulate Liberty’s predicted performance. The squad doesn’t boast a particular spot of strength nor does it decisively lack in a department — much like Northwestern.
Dec. 29 vs. Brown
In what will be almost exactly five years later, Northwestern rematches Brown to close out non-conference play. In 2017, the Bears kept it close with NU until a later-game run secured a 22-point victory. Suspect something similar this go around, though maybe a bit more contested, as Northwestern and Brown didn’t fare too differently in their 2021 performances.