Men’s Basketball: At Big Ten Media Day, Chris Collins knows how different his team will look


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Vic Law attacks the rim. The senior forward has been named captain for the second-straight season.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Social Media Editor

Men’s Basketball

ROSEMONT – For the first time since 2014, coach Chris Collins had to face reporters and answer questions as simple as who would bring the ball up the floor and what the offense would be look like with seconds left in a Big Ten game.

At Big Ten Media Day on Thursday, the head coach of six years said his skills as a tactician and a motivator will be tested with a team that looks much different than the one he’s coached the last four seasons.

“I think I’m constantly growing as a coach and not anywhere near where I hope to be as a finished product,” Collins said. “Once you get a group, they leave. They graduate and you have to constantly reinvent, you have to constantly reprove that you can build a program and take a new group of guys and try to win with them.”

That challenge is what Collins said excites him about the upcoming season, which he’s calling a “bridge year” between the first group he recruited to play for the Wildcats and the most highly touted one.

Senior forward Vic Law lingers as the last member of that 2014 recruiting class after guards Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey and forward Gavin Skelly graduated, and Collins named Law a captain again this season because of his ability to relay his previous experiences.

Despite losing starters McIntosh, Lindsey and Skelly, NU returns a deeper team than the one that went 15-17 last year. By adding freshmen forward Pete Nance (ranked No. 85 by 247Sports), guard Miller Kopp (No. 113 in the 2018 class), guard Ryan Greer and forward Ryan Young as well as transfers junior forward A.J. Turner and graduate guard Ryan Taylor, the Cats have more options on the wing than Collins has had in any season at Northwestern.

While there’s an opportunity for them to be utilized as playmakers in an offense that lacks a traditional point guard, the freshmen won’t be depended on as heavily as Law, who averaged 24.4 minutes per game in his first year.

“If you’re a hard worker and you play hard, you’ll eventually get in any rotation that way,” Law said. “But I think a big thing this year though is that they have a chance to actually be freshmen. They don’t have to be thrown into the fire because we have guys that are seasoned and can play right away while they come along gradually.”

Still, Collins said he holds the expectation that this freshman class can be the one that turns the Cats into perennial contenders in the Big Ten. This is what the group signed up for in the summer and fall of 2017, when the Cats were still enjoying the momentum of the best season in program history.

Having to balance managing a rotation of 12 players seeking playing time with the development of his young core will be one of the biggest challenges of the season, Collins said.

“That’s how I’ve been taught growing up by the mentors I’ve had: you never point fingers and you always look at yourself first,” he said. “When it’s going good, not to get caught up in that, but also when it’s not going well and try to get my guys back on a winning track and be better.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @2021_Charlie