clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A tribute to Northwestern basketball’s senior class

What a ride it’s been.

@NUMensBball on Twitter.

Going into the 2022-2023 NCAA basketball season, Northwestern had no expectations. After a disappointing year in 2021-22, the Wildcats saw key contributors Pete Nance and Ryan Young leave the program, and Chris Collins was issued an ultimatum: one more chance to be successful.

Well, fast forward, and Northwestern is having one of the best seasons in its history, and this could not have been done without the current senior class. Boo Buie, Chase Audige, Robbie Beran, Tydus Verhoeven and Roy Dixon III have all made their marks on the program, and Wednesday night will be a celebration for a class that had a revolutionary impact.

Though Wednesday is a big game with foe Penn State coming into town, let’s take a moment and show how significant the seniors have been during their times at Northwestern, especially this year.

Northwestern was predicted to finish 13th in the Big Ten this season; months later, the ‘Cats are 11-7 in conference play and in position to get a double bye for the Big Ten Tournament. Without the seniors, this wouldn’t be possible.

Let’s start with one of the faces of Northwestern basketball: Boo Buie. This season, Buie has become not only one of the best guards in the Big Ten or country, but also one of the icons for Northwestern.

None of what the Wildcats accomplished this season would be possible without Buie. He is Northwestern’s leading scorer and leading assister, and tons of the offensive production flows through him. Buie’s impact this year cannot be put into words.

When you think of Buie, many memories come to mind from this season. Whether it’s the game winner against Indiana, his 35-point masterpiece with a ripped jersey against rival Illinois, or when he dropped 26 to help Northwestern down No. 1 Purdue, he has been the heart of the team this season.

This sentiment is particularly true in victories. Northwestern arguably had one of the best weeks in its history dropping No. 1 Purdue, No. 14 Indiana and Iowa in Welsh-Ryan Arena, and Buie was named Big Ten Player of the Week. Many of the shots that he made in those three games, especially his floater with two seconds left against the Hoosiers, will live in Northwestern fans’ minds for a while. If the ‘Cats go far in March, expect No. 0 to be a reason why.

And how can you talk about Buie without mentioning the other main star for Northwestern? When No. 0 isn’t in the center, it’s No. 1: Chase Audige.

Audige is a different story than Buie, transferring from William & Mary after one year, and he struggled at times for Northwestern. Last season, he entered with many expectations after a stellar first year, but injuries derailed his campaign. Even when he came back, he was not the player Wildcat fans expected him to be.

But this season, the redshirt senior has not missed a game and has put up the best year of his career. This includes career highs in points per game and assists per game. He is obviously a huge factor in Northwestern’s offense; when Buie isn’t on, there’s a high chance Audige will be.

What makes Audige stand apart is his defense. He was just named a semifinalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, and most knew this was coming. He is the leader in the Big Ten in steals and is the catalyst to a Northwestern team that is known for its defensive identity this year.

Chris Collins has stuck to the same philosophy this season, which is that a great defense can win games, even when the offense is not performing, and this could not be more true than Audige’s performance against Purdue. Northwestern was down eight against the top team in the country with under four minutes left, and Audige went nuclear. He hit a three to get the ‘Cats within five, then immediately after stole the ball and dunked it to get Northwestern within three. He also sank the triple that gave Northwestern the lead that they would never go back.

Robbie Beran deserves the same amount of love. Though he does not put up the same numbers as Northwestern’s guards, he has been a reliable starter for the Wildcats from his first year in Evanston until now.

Beran has made an impact on both sides of the floor this season, hitting big shots when it matters and often having to make defensive plays on notable players in the Big Ten. His two games against Indiana this season, where he scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, shows the importance he has on the team: he’s there when it matters.

The senior forward has also had to shift around in the lineup this season, sometimes having to play center when Collins opted to play small. In the first Michigan game, he had one of his best defensive games of the season against one of the top players in the conference in Hunter Dickinson. Beran is reliable and there when Collins needed him to be.

Additionally, though Roy Dixon III did not get the same number of minutes than the aforementioned players, the level of excitement the team and Northwestern fans had when he entered the games showed how vital to the team he is. Even when he entered for short amounts of time, you could see Welsh-Ryan’s volume rise. It’s clear he has an impact on the team and the community, even if not on the court.

Finally, though he got off to a rocky start in Evanston, Tydus Verhoeven has turned into a role player that Northwestern can count on. He lost his starting spot due to the ascension of Matthew Nicholson, but Verhoeven has played crucial minutes in games, and his defense has gotten better as the season has gone along. This includes the matchup vs. Wisconsin in Madison, where Verhoeven came up with two clutch defensive plays to stifle the Badgers and hold the Wildcat lead. The transfer has gotten better as the season has gone along, and though some of it didn’t go as he envisioned it, the effect he has is larger than some think.

These five players have all made lasting impacts on the Northwestern basketball program, and it’s only right that they enjoy a successful season like this. NU hopes to go far in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament, and these seniors will be a reason why if they do.

Buie, Audige, Beran, Verhoeven and Dixon: a Northwestern class that will be celebrated Wednesday night and will be remembered for much longer.