Some news coming out today about Northwestern's multiple-team event (MTE) at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut prompted me to see what all we knew at this point about the 2023-24 Northwestern Wildcats schedule.
I already noted on OTE that this is a "just-fine" schedule for Northwestern -- the doubles against Sparty and Purdue are tough, but you'll take two-fers against the Gophers, Huskers, and Nittany Lions (tough an out as Penn State may have been). Illinois is a given under the current schedule, and Maryland...who knows. But this isn't an awful slate.
Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament (NU tweet)
Not a bad follow-up for the Mohegan Sun, which in 2022 hosted Maryland, Miami-Florida, Providence, and Saint Louis. Rhode Island (9-22, KP 255) is the clear weak link here, having struggled mightily in their first season under old friend Archie Miller. It's a little reminiscent of the 2017 iteration, when the 'Cats handled La Salle before getting their brakes blown off by Texas Tech in the finals.
The role of Texas Tech in this one could be played by either CLANGA or the Cougs, both of which are intriguing matchups of teams who play good defense and like to slow the game down. Wazzu (17-17, KP 63), under the leadership of Kyle Smith--formerly of Columbia and then San Francisco--has made back-to-back NITs after Ken Bone and Ernie Kent, in succession, cratered the program. After getting bounced in R1 of the NIT, though, Smith's "Nerdball" will need to crunch the numbers overtime to replace leading scorer TJ Bamba and big name DJ Rodman (both of whom transferred to Villanova and USC, respectively). Add to that possibly Mouhamed Gueye, who's in the NBA Draft and projected in the second round. Might be a steep climb and, in retrospect, the NIT with that roster is disappointing.
The Bulldogs (21-13, KP 53 in 2022-23), on the other hand, overachieved in first-year head man Chris Jans's inaugural campaign. The former New Mexico State HC pulled in a number of transfers and started the year 11-0 with Mississippi State before cooling off in the SEC slate with a 1-7 conference start. The Bulldogs recovered well enough to make the First Four, then committed a war crime along with Pittsburgh, falling 60-59 in Dayton. Leading scorer and 6'11" F Tolu Smith will be back, though, and that is enough for CLANGA to pose a serious threat -- the all-SEC man will test NU inside. Good overview of the full Bulldog roster here, with the tl;dr that Mississippi State returns basically its starting five plus a transfer guard from Marshall and a transfer center from West Virginia.
I'd put early bets on CLANGA to take it, with Northwestern runner-up, but that's the beauty of it being May and all the questions still out there on...well, everything.