A lot of people have pinpointed three things Chris Collins needs to do as quickly as possible - you know, when he officially isn't a Duke assistant anymore and is a Northwestern head coach instead. a) Get Jaren Sina. B) Figure out his coaching staff. C) Make sure Drew Crawford - the team's supposed best player this past season, before an injury caused him to redshirt, something that leaves him with one year left of eligibility which he can use anywhere that will have him - stays.
In the long term, the third thing might be the least important for Northwestern's goals. Sina could be a star point guard for four years. That staff will help Collins recruit the players of NU's future. Crawford, on the other hand, will only be around for one more year.
But in the short term, it's hugely important. We all know Drew Crawford can flat-out score. Before his injury, he was NU's best option and the only person who could score at will - like, if NU needed an outlet when the Princeton wasn't working - and although Reggie Hearn and Jared Swopshire filled that role to a certain extent down the stretch, neither was great. And those dudes are both gone, and now the best scorer the team has is Tre Demps or maybe JerShon Cobb.
To summarize: with Drew Crawford, NU has an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament. Without him, their roster looks an awful lot like the lifeless bunch that suffered nine straight double-digit defeats down the stretch.
So do we need to worry about Crawford leaving? It's definitely a possibility that Crawford go elsewhere. We've known that since Jim Phillips' press conference the day of the Carmody firing, when Phillips said he wanted Crawford to do "what's best for Drew," hoping that meant staying at Northwestern. More recently, there's been some speculation - LTP had a post on it yesterday, and Scott Powers included it amongst his to-do list for Collins. And we have this tweet:
Very telling RT @goodmancbs: Question I get asked most these days from college coaches: "Do you know of any 5th-year transfers?"— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 28, 2013
So there is interest and reason for Crawford to leave. Teams will want him, because he's a proven talent. And he could leave because he does have hopes of playing professionally. He's a fringe prospect - No. 59 amongst seniors, per Draft Express, leaving him a likely overseas or D-League prospect but with the ability to improve with a strong senior year. Perhaps being a second or third option on a tourney team would be a better move than sticking at NU.
As always, the clearest picture comes from Teddy Greenstein. His update yesterday covered, like, pretty much every angle of the Collins thing - important tidbits: Tavaras Hardy has offers from other schools but Collins is open to keeping him, Sina is waiting to talk to the coach at length. But Crawford is the main thrust of the story:
A source close to the talented wingman said Crawford will make "a good basketball decision," meaning he only would consider transferring if a top-notch team assures him of a prime-time role. There’s little doubt that would happen. So to keep him in Evanston, Collins should appeal to Crawford’s desire to complete the mission — to dance in March.
Crawford has been accepted to grad school at NU, so he's good to go.
Like Phillips, I want Crawford to do what's best for his career. Selfishly, I hope that involves leading Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament. Next year's squad has a shot,but its an outside one, and its heavily dependent on Crawford staying. But as everybody has noted, Chris Collins had better get to work - there will be other options for Crawford, and he'd be silly not to consider them.