Good news is rare for the poor Northwestern Wildcats. Every year partisans get excited, hoping for the school’s first-ever NCAA tourney berth, and every year, the rising tide of the Big Ten swamps the purple and white.
Hard to say what’s in store for Northwestern next year, but we do know one thing: they’ll have Drew Crawford back to bring some excitement to Chris Collins’ first season as the team’s head coach. The senior wing player got off to a good start this past season – averaging 13.5 points per game – before he suffered a torn labrum and had to end his season early.
The hardworking upperclassman made good use of his time off the court and earned his degree, so he could have used the graduate transfer rule to play one last season elsewhere. Apparently, the advent of the Chris Collins era in Evanston is something Crawford wants to witness.
The Wildcats will need Crawford’s steady leadership if they hope to contend in a league that’s just getting tougher. Crawford’s decision to stick around seems like a pretty good sign that Collins can attract and keep some talent at Northwestern as well.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.