The Wildcats have walked the walk, and now, they’ve let others talk the talk for them.
Just days after clinching the second seed in the Big Ten tournament, the team’s highest finish in conference play since 1959, Northwestern’s players and coaches were rewarded with several conference awards, each of which is the program’s first in a while.
It all starts at the top, with Chris Collins. After having his job publicly called for if improvements were not made, Collins was awarded with the Big Ten Coach of the Year. His squad jumped from 11th in the Big Ten to second and a guaranteed NCAA tournament berth, and he was openly complimented by other conference coaches on the job he’d done with the team. Despite this, Collins consistently credited his players throughout the season for the work the team’s performance. Collins is only the second Coach of the Year in Northwestern history, following Bill Carmody in 2004.
It's official— Northwestern Basketball (@NUMensBball) March 7, 2023
Your BIG TEN COACH OF THE YEAR pic.twitter.com/W0lWqUcyT9
Collins wasn’t the only coach to earn honors. After coming on the staff as an assistant coach with loads of head coaching experience, Chris Lowery was awarded the conference’s first ever Howard Moore Assistant Coach of the Year award. Lowery is widely considered one of the biggest keys for the Wildcats’ transformation into a defensive juggernaut, and there’s a very solid chance he’s back leading another team as a head coach next season. For now, Lowery reaps the benefits of helping build an outstanding defensive team.
Among the players, two Wildcats earned All-Big Ten honors. Following his phenomenal season that saw him finish sixth in the conference in scoring and fifth in assists, Boo Buie was awarded as a member of the first-team All-Big Ten for media and second-team All-Big Ten for coaches. Buie is the first Wildcat to be named to an All-Big Ten first team since John Shurna in 2012, and the first Northwestern athlete to be named to any conference team since Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey in 2017.
Floor General. First Team All-B1G. pic.twitter.com/ynCss99VC6— Northwestern Basketball (@NUMensBball) March 7, 2023
Buie was joined by his backcourt partner in Chase Audige, who also earned second-team honors for the coaches. However, Audige took home a much larger trophy in the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award, which he shared with Rutgers’ Caleb McConnell. Audige finished first in the conference with 74 steals, and second to McConnell with 2.4 steals per game. He’s only the second Wildcat to earn the Defensive Player of the Year award, following Patrick Baldwin in 1994. Of course, he was also named to the All-Defense team, the first Northwestern athlete since Vic Law in 2017.
Northwestern’s all-conference athletes and coaches will put their honors to the test over the weekend, when they take on the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 2 seed. The Wildcats will take on the winner of Penn State and Illinois on Friday, set for tip-off at 5:30 p.m. CT.