Men’s Basketball: After AD switch, 2021-22 could be prove-it year for Collins and Co.


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Chris Collins directs the Wildcats during a game. Collins led the Cats to a March Madness appearance in 2017, but NU has found only futility since.

John Riker, Senior Staffer

In June, Northwestern hired Derrick Gragg as its athletic director, signaling a new era in Wildcat athletics. But it may have indicated something else for the men’s basketball program: a prove-it year for coach Chris Collins. 

Despite a third consecutive season with a losing streak of at least 10 games and a turnover-filled Big Ten tournament loss to Minnesota, the NU higher-ups retained Collins for what will be his ninth season at the helm. While he navigated the challenges of a pandemic-affected regular season and led the Cats to a 3-0 start to conference play, the honeymoon after NU’s March Madness appearance in 2017 appears to be over.

Collins will return much of the same cast from his 2020-21 squad, minus forward Miller Kopp and guard Anthony Gaines. Kopp, the team’s top scorer in 2019-20, transferred to Indiana after a mediocre season and leaves NU short of its best three-point threat and floor spacer. However, all is not lost — forward Pete Nance, who took a big step forward with 11.1 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game, opted to stick around for his senior season.

A couple of major additions to last season’s team will also prove crucial to the Cats’ chances at contention. Junior guard Chase Audige provided a scoring and energy boost in his first season in Evanston, while sophomore guard Ty Berry flashed offensive potential off the bench. Juniors Robbie Beran, Boo Buie and Ryan Young all had their moments last season and are expected to be lineup regulars. 

While Kopp’s loss looms large over the NU offense, the Cats are hoping their experience and improved late-game showings will be enough to return to an NCAA tournament berth and keep Collins around a little longer. 

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