CFB Week 9 Card

ND (-3.5) vs UNC: UNC is 0-2 away from home and their D is horrific, which will help mask the deficiencies of this ND offense. The Irish are improving on the defensive side, and have quietly been rolling since the loss to undefeated Cincy. They have pivoted to focus more on running the ball, Kyren Williams is rolling, and the Tar Heels can’t stop a nose bleed. Look for Williams to have a massive day and for ND to roll offensively. The Irish should get enough stops to win this one comfortably. Cash it.

Iowa (ML) @ Wisconsin: But…but…but Iowa lost to Purdue who immediately got trounced by Wisconsin, how could you possibly…hold up a sec, allow me. The Hawkeyes got drunk on their own Kool-Aid and laid an egg against an inferior team, so what? They’re back off the matt and still the same vaunted defense that has made opposing QB’s look silly every other week, and who do they get to see this week? Graham Mertz. Mertz is pathetically bad, even Badger fans know it. If you can contain the run, which Iowa can, he will just give you the ball 3-4 times and Iowa is elite at taking advantage of bad QB play. Hawkeyes roll thanks to Mertz and establish themselves as the Big Ten West fave. Cash it. 

Auburn (-2.5) vs Ole Miss: Bo Nix has this Auburn offense rolling and they get one of the worst defenses in the SEC coming to town to continue this run. Nix has had his issues, especially on the road, but he gets to face a terrible defense and at home under the lights he has shined in his career. With Corral clearly compromised and Auburn’s defense much better than Ole Miss’ I see Auburn controlling this one. The win @Arkansas may have me overreacting but I’m loving what the Tigers are doing. In Bo we trust. Cash it. 

Kentucky (-2) @ Miss St: Tough road game here for the Wildcats but UK has been underrated all year imo, and Miss St is just not great. Kentucky is built to win these games, with a great defense and a strong running game behind Chris Rodriguez Jr, I think they win a really close battle here. At the end of the day give me the team that gets stops and controls the line of scrimmage in these matchups, and 2 points is too low. The Bulldogs will need more than 70k cowbells to win this one. Kentucky ugly but decisively. Cash it. 

W. Virginia (+7) vs Iowa St: Iowa St is coming off of one of the biggest wins in the programs history, a natural let down spot. The Mountaineers are by no means better than Iowa St, but this is a trap game and WV is always frisky at home. This is purely a bet on the hangover from the Cyclones and in the end I think they win the game late but 7 points is a lot to cover on the road after that kind of win. Hungry dogs run faster, especially at home. Cash it.

UCLA (+6.5) @ Utah: DTR looks like he’s going to play for the Bruins, and off a tough loss to a great Oregon team I see no reason to think they take a beating from the Utes. Going to Utah is one of the more difficult trips in college football, but this UCLA offense is electric and they are battling for the Pac-12 South. Utah is getting love based on who they’ve historically been, a defensive juggernaut, but the 2021 defense is porous and I expect DTR and company to tear right through em. Sprinkle the UCLA ML but love the 6.5. Cash it. 

Wake (-16.5) vs Duke: Duke is terrible. Their last two road games they were beaten by 48 and 31 and now they get undefeated white hot Wake Forest. The only trepidation here is Wake’s defense, but Duke only put up 7 total points in those two games against really bad UNC and UVA defenses, so I’m not concerned. This is truly a shit-pumping in the making as Wake has one of the most explosive offenses in the ACC. It’s alot of points but the Demon Deacons should be covering by halftime. Cash it. 

CFB Week 7 Card

Season Record: 14-8-1 (+5.6u)

Nebraska -3.5 (Lock): Nebraska heads to Minnesota after a heartbreaking loss to undefeated Michigan on a go ahead FG with a minute left in the game. I love where the Huskers have gone since the Week 0 loss to Illinois, as they’ve lost 3 games but all to undefeated teams and every game was a slugfest that they had a chance to win. Minnesota has been mostly in shambles this season, including a loss to Bowling Green and I truly think Nebraska is going to walk in there and heir their frustrations. Nebraska has been playing as good as any team in the 15-25 range they just haven’t been able to seal the deal. This is way more lopsided a matchup than people are looking at it. Cash it.

Oregon -13.5: The Ducks have had 2 weeks to chew on that tough loss on the road to Stanford, and you know their blood is boiling and they’re itching to prove they haven’t gone anywhere. Cal is the unfortunate twig house in the path of a hurricane in this one and the Ducks should go under the lights on a Friday night and win this by 3+ TD’s. I think this Oregon team has a legitimate shot to still run the table the rest of the way and play themselves into the playoff with that win over Ohio St, and they know it too. Every game has more urgency and we’ll feel that urgency on Friday night. Cash it.

UCLA – ML: The Bruins have been pretty damn good this season and Washington has been very mediocre, so I’m not sure why UCLA is a dog in this matchup but I love them to take care of business in this one. The thing that does worry you is that they welcome in Oregon next weekend, but you know Chip Kelly has been driving home that next week will mean a whole hell of a lot less if they lose this one to Washington. With only 1 Conference loss thus far the Bruins are not out of it in terms of a Conference Championship, so the motivation is still there. Cash it.

TCU +13.5: TCU’s offense is dynamic and I’m really betting on Oklahoma having a let down game after that emotional come from behind victory over Texas last week. Not to mention they have a QB controversy on their hands which adds to the emotional toll heading into this game and TCU under Gary Patterson have always gotten up for the big ones against Texas and OU. I definitely think Oklahoma wins this game but I think TCU punches em in the mouth early and is able to hang around in a very high scoring game. Cash it.

Arkansas -3.5: I’m still riding Sam Pittman and Arkansas and definitely do not buy into the narrative that they are overhyped, if anything I think they are still underappreciated. This offense is dynamic, see 51 points last week, and while the defense has been suspect Auburn is not anywhere near as explosive as Ole Miss. I like Arkansas in their home stadium again to enact a little revenge against a team who beat them last season on an officiating blunder. Also, fading Bo Nix on the road is just a winning strategy regardless of the matchup. Cash it.

Michigan St -4.5: This is a disrespectful line for Sparty, and while I understand the “trap game” thinking, I just don’t see a team who is so fundamentally sound and so consistent in the trenches to lose a game to an inferior team playing with their backup QB. Kenneth Walker is going to rack up another 200+ yards and Sparty will slowly wear down this Hoosiers team and win by double digits. IU just isn’t who we thought they would be, and without their dynamic QB is going to have major struggles on both sides of the ball. Ride this one if not for anything above at least for the potential undefeated matchup next weekend with Michigan. Cash it.

CFB Rankings (Week 6)

6.Oklahoma State5-0
9.Penn State5-1
11.Ohio State5-1
12.Ole Miss4-1
13.Michigan St6-0
14.Wake Forest6-0
15.Notre Dame5-1
16.Coastal Carolina6-0
17.Arizona St5-1
21.NC State4-1
22.Texas A&M4-2
24.San Diego St5-0

CFB Week 6 Card

Texas +3.5 & ML: Oklahoma is favored in this rivalry game and what I’ve seen from them gives me zero confidence they can beat this Texas team that has been rolling as of late. We dismissed Texas after they went on the road and lost to Arkansas, but how bad does that really look now? Oklahoma has struggled with the likes of Nebraska, Tulane, and K-State in recent weeks and Texas has been dominate since moving to Casey Thompson at QB. This should be a shootout, but I love Texas at +3.5 and I’m on the ML as well. Bijan Robinson goes off. Cash it.

Arkansas +6.5: Call me a sucker but I still love what Arkansas has rolling with Sam Pittman, even after watching them get drubbed by Georgia. Georgia is the best team in the country and is a nightmare matchup for what the Arkansas’ strengths are, but the good news is Ole Miss is the antithesis of Georgia. Arkansas will be able to run the ball and burn the Rebel D on play action, it’s bread and butter and Ole Miss offensively is not a ground and pound team like Georgia. Arkansas has the athletes on the outside defensively to slow Ole Miss down and make this one go down to the wire. 6.5 is way too many points. Cash it.

Louisville -2: This line is a head scratcher which worries me but I really think Louisville wins this pretty handily. This Virginia defense is atrocious, they just lost to Miami who is terrible and now they face one of the more dynamic QB’s in the country in Malik Cunningham. Neither defense is that great but Louisville’s offense is more dynamic and they impressed me last week taking Wake Forest down to the wire on the road. The home team and the better team only laying 2 points? Cash it.

Iowa -2.5: The game of the week in CFB as #3 Iowa takes on #4 Penn State and I love the Hawkeyes to win in an ugly punt fest. Iowa’s defense has been making QB’s look like dog shit all season, most notably media darling Brock Purdy in Week 2. I don’t think Clifford will fare any better and I look for that defense to turn over Penn St 3+ times once again and give the offense enough short fields to be able to take care of business this week. This is the best defense Iowa has faced but until they face a QB that can sling it around and take care of the football I will be hammering them. Cash it.

Nebraska +3.5: This is a dangerous game for Michigan as Nebraska has continued to look better and better every week. The Huskers lost inexcusably Week 1 to Illinois, but since then they have dominated the teams they should and were close to taking down 2 ranked, undefeated teams in Oklahoma and Michigan St. I am not sold on Michigan and think this is a monster game for Nebraska’s program. I love home dogs, especially when it means a little more. Had to talk myself down from the ML here but 3.5? Cash it.

CFB Top-25 (Week 5)

5.Penn St.5-0
7.Oklahoma State5-0
11.Michigan State5-0
14.Ohio State4-1
15.Notre Dame4-1
16.Ole Miss3-1
17.Wake Forest5-0
18.Coastal Carolina5-0
20.Arizona St4-1
22.NC State4-1
24.San Diego St4-0

CFB Picks Week 5

CFB Week 5 Card:
Record: 8-3 (+5u)

Arkansas +18.5 (1.1u): This is as disrespectful of a line as I’ve ever seen. Arkansas has two outright
wins over ranked teams as an underdog, both by double digits. They have an explosive offense, a
defense that flies around and Sam Pittman, who clearly has changed the culture to embody the blue
collar nature of the state of Arkansas. Georgia’s best win? 10-3 over Clemson, who might not even be the 3rd best team in the ACC. This will be a dog fight, an incredible game and will be the easiest win of the weekend. Georgia wins late but Arkansas is a legitimate top-10 team. 18.5 is absurd. Cash it.

Texas -5 (1.1u): Too many people on TCU. Texas was dismissed too early after a loss to Arkansas, how
does that look now? Texas is a top-25 team and will put up 40+ on this pathetic TCU defense. I don’t love road favorites but Texas is getting ignored all because they lost to a top-10 team on the road. Love Bijan Robinson, Thompson is the guy and Sarkisian has things rolling. Cash it.

Kentucky +8.5 (1.1u): Florida is going to get everything Kentucky has, similar to Alabama heading to the
Swamp a couple of weeks ago. Great teams win this game but to expect Florida to waltz in there and win
a game like this by 9 or more is asking a lot. Kentucky’s D is solid enough, and they have one of the best
rushing attacks in the SEC led by Chris Rodriguez Jr. I love home dogs, and especially when it’s a
chance for a team like Kentucky to make a statement. Sprinkle the ML if you’re feeling frisky but 8.5?
Cash it.

Oklahoma St -3.5 (1.1u): This is tough one but I think the Cowboys are better on D and better in the
trenches. Both teams can run the ball, Baylor especially, but the Cowboys have been very effective in
stopping the run. If they can force Baylor into 3 rd and longs I don’t like Bohannon’s ability to make big
plays. They are also getting a lot of love from last week, when largely the game was won on a kickoff
return. Not buying Baylor. Cash it.

Kansas St +10.5 (1.1u): Purely a bet against an overvalued Oklahoma. They barely beat Tulane,
Nebraska and W. Virginia at home. K-State is better than all of them it it’s on the road. The line has
moved heavily towards Oklahoma, so you might be able to get 12.5 on this. Oklahoma does not deserve
to be in the top-10 and should be on upset alert. Another huge home dog. Cash it.

Rutgers +15 (1.1u): I’m riding home dogs this year and here’s another one. They played Michigan very
tough and covered easily last week. Ohio State’s D is still a problem, and when you can’t get stops it’s
hard to win by 3 TD’s. Schiano clearly has something going in Jersey and this is a chance to get them on
the map. Not the same old Rutgers we’re used to seeing get steamrolled. Cash it.

2021 Nebraska Preview

Key Departures: Teddy Allen (–>N. Mexico St); Dalano Banton (NBA); Shamiel Stevenson (Pro);

New In Town: Alonzo Verge Jr (<–Arizona St); CJ Wilcher (<–Xavier); Keon Edwards (<–DePaul);Bryce McGowens (#28); Wilhelm Breidenbach (#100); Quaran McPherson (#207); Oleg Kojenets (#210); Keisei Tominaga (JUCO)

State of the Program:

                  Fred Hoiberg continues to charge forward in his noble attempt to resurrect this Nebraska program from the ashes left behind by Tim Miles’ tumultuous exit. Last season was a step in the right direction, as they improved 50 spots in overall efficiency rankings to 102nd overall, largely behind a top-50 defense. The overall record still looks ugly, with a 5-34 Big Ten record over Hoiberg’s first 2 years, but this season could be another jump forward with another influx of talent. What’s key to watch in rebuilds such as this is an establishment of a winning culture, and to see them competing harder and harder is a positive sign on that front. Improving the defense from 152nd to 40th year over year is absolutely an accomplishment, and a reflection of a culture of competing hard every possession. Now the talent is having a chance to catch up, and if that culture continues to permeate throughout the program then I expect more gains to be made on this journey back to relevance. They also are beginning to get some stability, as they welcome back several key contributors from last season’s team they can continue to build around. That group is led by G Trey McGowens (SR), F Lat Mayen (JR), F Derrick Walker (SR), and G Kobe Webster (SR). All 4 of them started games for the Cornhuskers a year ago and McGowens was the key scorer and playmaker after Teddy Allen left the program mid-season. That group combined with the incoming talent should lift this Cornhusker team out of the cellar of the Conference in another positive step for this program.

What’s New:

                  It’s a huge group of guys coming into the program, with some redshirts likely to come, but the headliner of the group is Arizona St transfer G Alonzo Verge Jr (SR). He was a prolific scorer with the Sun Devils whose game reminds you of former Maryland star Anthony Cowan. He can score at all 3 levels and has the creativity and skill to get a clean look at any moment. The Cornhuskers need that spark and playmaking and he’ll likely be a starter in the backcourt. Also looking to start right away is brother of Trey McGowens, 5-star 6’6” G Bryce McGowens (#28). McGowens is the best recruit Nebraska has ever landed, and is almost a spitting image of former Villanova and current Suns star Mikal Bridges. Same thin, long frame with the same defensive upside, along with athleticism and a more developed offensive game than Bridges had at this stage. He can come in and be a star right away for Nebraska. A couple of other transfers have a shot at minutes, the first of which is 6’7” wing Keon Edwards (FR) out of DePaul. Edwards is largely unproven, as he enrolled early a season ago and didn’t get much action. He was a top-100 recruit though, and comes in as a special athlete that has a high ceiling if he can develop his game. Former Xavier G CJ Wilcher (FR) also enters looking for backup minutes, and his game is mostly as a crafty scorer, as his athleticism doesn’t jump off the page, but he can earn minutes if he can provide some scoring punch. The other member of the Freshman class who has a legit shot at minutes is 6’9” big man Wilhelm Breidenbach (#100) who will battle RS FR Eduardo Andre for backup big minutes. His game is a little quirky, but he has a lot of potential with his height and length combined with decent handles and a decent shot. He should develop as a very good stretch big man, especially if he adds strength to his wiry frame. The rest of the incoming class will likely redshirt or never see the floor, as it’s a massive group on the roster.

Prediction: 11th Big Ten (NR)

                  All-in-all I love what Hoiberg is building and unequivocally believe he will get this program to the NCAA tournament in the next couple of years. I don’t expect them to vie for that this season, but I definitely expect huge steps forward to be taken. They will no longer be the bottom dweller in the Conference, and I think they even pull a few surprise wins over the top teams at home. You will not be able to overlook Nebraska this season, and even though they will likely still be sub-.500 in Conference play it’ll be an entirely different feel this season. The McGowens brothers combined with Verge and Mayen give the Huskers some legitimate threats offensively. If they can maintain the improvements that were made on the defensive end then they should surprise some people in terms of how close they compete against elite teams. Ultimately winning matters above all else, but in this long term resurrection plan this season can be a key turning point for Hoiberg on this journey.

2021 Minnesota Preview

Key Departures: Marcus Carr (–>Texas); Gabe Kalscheur (–>Iowa St); Liam Robbins (–>Vandy); Both Gach (–>Utah); Brandon Johnson (–>Depaul); Jamal Mashburn Jr (–>New Mexico); Tre Williams (–>Oregon St)

New In Town: Luke Loewe (<–William & Mary); E.J. Stephens (<–Lafayette); Jamison Battle (<–G. Washington) Sean Sutherlin (<–New Hampshire); Payton Willis (<–Colgate); Charlie Daniels (<–SF Austin); Parker Fox (JUCO); Danny Ogele (<–Navy); Abdoulaye Thiam (JUCO); Treyton Thompson (#178)

State of the Program:

                  Minnesota is a complete dumpster fire right now, to put it lightly. Richard Pitino had opportunity after opportunity to build and maintain success here and failed to do so, as his 8 year stint came to a crashing conclusion last season after losing 8 of 9 to end the year. That was after reaching as high as 16 in the rankings after beating the likes of Iowa, Ohio St, Michigan and Purdue. The Gophers completely collapsed, and with it came the collapse of the program as virtually everyone from a year ago has exited. New coach Ben Johnson has an almost impossible task ahead of him, as he welcomes 10 new players into the program. He begins his first stint as a head coach after playing for the Gophers and spending the last decade+ as an assistant coach at N. Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Xavier. At this point if you’re still reading this you’re either a Minnesota fan, in which case I’m very sorry, or incredibly bored. I will quickly summarize the outlook for those barely hanging on, and it is as follows; your favorite team will dread playing the Gophers, only because a loss would be a disaster and a stain on the resume and a win will do absolutely nothing for you. The Gophers will be lucky to win 1 game in the Big Ten this season. Remember when Tim Miles left Nebraska in flames and Fred Hoiberg took the reins? He has won 5 total Big Ten games in his 2 seasons there, and he’s coached in the NBA. I can definitively say Coach Johnson faces an even tougher challenge having zero HC experience. Now, if you’re still with me, I’m going to painstakingly breakdown all 10 incoming players, all to surmise that they struggle to win 1 conference game. God bless your obsession to Minnesota hoops if you indulge in the exercise.

What’s New:

                  Kicking it off is 6’4” G Luke Loewe (SR) out of William & Mary. Luke was a 2x All-D and 1x All-CAA selection that averaged 16/3/3 a season ago. He’s a 3 level scorer that uses his craftiness to get to his spots despite his lack of athleticism. That will be more difficult in the Big Ten but the Gophers will undoubtedly need him to be a playmaker. 6’7” wing Jamison Battle (SO) is a southpaw who was also an All-Conference selection a season ago out of the A-10. He is likewise not the quickest, but can get to his spots and shoots well from deep and in the mid-range. Next up 6’3” G EJ Stephens (SR) out of Lafayette, who enters the program coming off an All-Conference selection of his own in the Patriot League. He put up 16 ppg and plays a similar game as Loewe, as he can create his own shot and was the main playmaker for his team a year ago. Sean Sutherlin (SR) is a 6’5” G out of New Hampshire that will represent a nice juxtaposition in the backcourt to the previous 2 guys as he’s a bouncy athlete that excels attacking the basket downhill. He plays a tough and physical brand of basketball, and he averaged 9+ rpg his last season. Payton Willis (SR) returns to Minnesota after transferring to Colgate, and he’ll assume his previous role as a perimeter shooter after shooting 40% a season ago. His experience at major level programs likely allows him to assume a starting role in the backcourt. 6’9” PF Charlie Daniels (SR) will be battling for minutes on the interior. He didn’t ever establish a major role and I don’t anticipate it happening here either, but he will be important for depth inside. Parker Fox (JR) is a 6’8” F that was a NABC DII All-American, for whatever that’s worth, and enters as a prime candidate to get big minutes at the 4/5. He dominated at that level mostly due to the fact he was simply bigger/faster/stronger than many of his opponents, which will no longer be the case, but his high energy high effort style will make him an exciting watch for Gopher fans. Abdoulaye Thiam (FR) is a 6’3” G emerging out of the JUCO ranks who will be looking to use his athleticism to earn playing time in this crowded, but up for grabs backcourt. Danny Ogele (SR) is a 6’7” F out of Navy who like Daniels never really was a standout but is a big body that will compete hard for minutes and provide necessary depth in the frontcourt. Last but not least the 1 true Freshman, 6’11” C Treyton Thompson (#178).  Thompson is a lanky big who can stretch out and shoot from 3 and uses his length to block shots inside. He will need to fill out as he develops, but should become a nice 4 year player for the program.

Prediction: 14th Big Ten (NR)

                  Predicting how the rotation will shake out feels similar to playing darts blindfolded after being spun around in circles. I will say, regardless of who gets more minutes than whom, the outlook feels much the same. The Gophers will not, under any circumstance, be a factor in the Conference beyond the conversation of being a trap game for x contender. Hopefully, for the programs sake, this will just be a bump in the road. But something about a total program exodus followed by the hiring of someone with zero head coaching experience has me a bit pessimistic about the future for the Gophers.

2021 Iowa Preview

Key Departures: Luka Garza (Grad); Joe Wieskamp (NBA); CJ Fredrick (–>Kentucky); Jack Nunge (–>Xavier)

New In Town: Filip Rebraca (<–N. Dakota); Payton Sandfort (#170); Riley Mulvey (#203)

State of the Program:

                  Another year and another Fran McCaffery led squad that largely ignores the defensive end of the floor and ultimately loses the first weekend in March in their attempt to simply outscore their opponent. I’m thankful I have McCaffery to be the real life example year after year that if you ignore defense you don’t win in March, plain and simple. The Hawkeyes finished the season ranked 75th  on D, and lost to 7 seed Oregon in the 2nd round giving up 95 points. It was quite possibly the most predictable result of the entire tournament. All of this happened even when Iowa had the NPOY and 2x All-American Luka Garza being the most dominate force in college basketball. A real shame. Yet and still, McCaffery will don the Hawkeye sidelines once again, and he will lose Garza, as well as 2nd leading scorer and 2x All-Conference wing Joe Wieskamp. That’s nearly 40 ppg in those 2 that left town, so a huge challenge is forthcoming as replacing that high level of talent is difficult even for the elite programs. The good news is there’s a large young core with which McCaffery can build around, headlined by F Keegan Murray (SO), G Joe Toussaint (JR), and F Patrick McCaffery (SO) as well as veteran G’s Jordan Bohannon (SR) and Connor McCaffery (SR). Murray has a chance to develop into a star after bursting on the scene a year ago, and he is projected by many as a 2022 NBA draft selection. Beyond him McCaffery will be desperately looking for scorers and playmakers.

What’s New:

                  Incoming to help fill the void left behind by Garza is transfer big man Filip Rebraca (JR) out of N. Dakota. He was a nightly double-double threat that has game with his back to the basket in the post, facing up in the mid-range, as well as off the bounce attacking the basket. He was All-Summit a year ago averaging 17/8 and will come in and start alongside Murray in the frontcourt. 6’7” Freshman F Payton Sandfort (#170) comes in as one of the better catch and shoot wings in the class that I’ve seen, as his shot is as pure as they come at this level. He’s not the strongest, quickest or most explosive, but his jumper will earn him playing time and as he develops he could become a lethal weapon for this Hawkeye offense in the years to come. He will battle returning SO’s Kris Murray (SO) and Patrick McCaffery for backup time at the 3-4 spots this year. Last addition is 6’11 C Riley Mulvey (#203) who will likely be buried behind Rebraca and Josh Ogundele (SO) at the 5 spot. He is mostly a project at this point but has decent athleticism and Iowa has been able to develop big men in the past so I would expect him to have a role in a couple of years. Along with Ogundele and the Murray brothers, Iowa also will feature G’s Tony Perkins (SO) and Ahron Ulis (SO) as part of a huge SO class. Perkins and Ulis played sparingly last season but with the loss of Fredrick and Wieskamp they will step in to fill the void in the backcourt off the bench.

Prediction: 12th Big Ten (NR)

                  This Hawkeye team is young, with the exception of Bohannon and C. McCaffrey and will be far less lethal offensively than they were a year ago. They have some promising young players but once again they will reflect the leadership of Fran McCaffrey. That will mean they will struggle defensively and fire up a ton of 3’s. The problem with that is they lost 4 of their 5 best shooters with only Bohannon returning as a proven threat. I see this group struggling not only due to the loss of Garza and Wieskamp, but the continuing lack of Defense and the lack of perimeter shooting, which they typically rely on to make up for their defensive inefficiencies. Keegan Murray has a chance to prove he can play in the league but likely won’t get to do so on a national stage. That may be a blessing in disguise if they can get him to return next year for a 3rd season, as they will have a much better outlook after this young group gets a season without Garza under its belt. They relied on him so heavily it will be a tough transition to life beyond him, and losing the #2 guy at the same time only exacerbates the challenge. The lack of playmakers and scorers combined with the historical lack of emphasis on defense puts the Hawkeyes in the bottom half of the Conference and on the outside looking in come March.

2021 Northwestern Preview

Key Departures: Miller Kopp (–>Indiana); Anthony Gaines (–>Siena)

New In Town: Casey Simmons (#99); Julian Roper (#147); Brooks Barnhizer (#149)

State of the Program:

            I often think of the Chris Collins tenure in a negative way, especially after the collapse of 2018 a season after their historic NCAA tournament win. Most programs would not still employ Collins, but when you’re a program that had zero NCAA tournament appearances, let alone wins, the leash is much longer, especially for the guy who did bring you your 1st tournament win. Still, the years after have been disappointing considering the momentum that was thought to be taking place, as they’ve gone sub-.500 both in conference and overall all 4 years after that tournament appearance and win. They did compete well a year ago, and actually entered the top-25 rankings before losing 13 straight Conference games. It was a brutal schedule and a young team that hopefully, for Collins’ sake, can continue to build on the 6 Conference wins from a year ago. They return 6 of the 9 regular rotation guys, including 4 starters from a year ago, headlined by leading scorer Chase Audige (JR). Other returning starter are Pete Nance (SR), Boo Buie (JR), and Robbie Beran (JR) alongside role players Ryan Young (JR) and Ty Berry (SO). This group did make some strides a year ago, especially defensively as they transformed from 150th to 37th in defensive efficiency. Expectations should be higher as Collins’ seat begins to heat up the farther away he gets from his last successful season.

What’s New:

                  Coming to campus is a pretty nice Freshman class that has a chance to have an impact for the program. Leading the group is 6’5” G Casey Simmons (#99) who enters the program as the 2nd highest rated recruit in 247 sports’ recorded history. He’s not a one-and-done blue chip prospect by any means but his length and athleticism give him a high ceiling, especially for a guy who already shows a natural ability to score the basketball. He should also hold up defensively, and earn plenty of minutes off the bench in year 1. The next member of this class is 6’3” CG Julian Roper (#147). His being undersized for a 2 guard is likely part of his lower ranking, but his handles and playmaking ability at all 3 levels should help him to become a lethal weapon down the road for the Wildcats. The final Freshman coming to town is 6’6” wing Brooks Barnhizer (#149). Barnhizer is not the most athletic, but his height and shot make him a compelling prospect, he will need to get stronger and quicker, but has the skills to make an impact on this program. He will be able to battle for backup minutes off the bench.


                  Collins has a real chance to build on an improved season a year ago. Getting 4 starters back allows for them to remain cohesive and build on their steps forward from last season. Audige, Nance and Buie all showed flashes offensively and if they can gain some consistency in their play that will be huge for Northwestern in taking a step forward. Losing Kopp hurts the ceiling, but with only Nance being a Senior and one of the better classes in school history coming in this is a huge building block year for Collins. A very young team from a year ago gets a little older, and if they continue the defensive strides and expand their offensive abilities they should be even more competitive than a year ago. There are several programs on the decline in the Big Ten this year, Northwestern should not be one of them. Simmons and Roper are promising prospects and most of the team should be coming back in ’22-23, so Collins should be building towards a tournament run again here soon. 6 of the top 9 recruits at Northwester since 2000 will be on this roster, only Nance is a Senior. If 2023 ends in another below .500 season there is no way Collins should remain the HC at Northwestern. They should absolutely win 7 or 8 Conference games at minimum this season and anything less should have Collins feeling very nervous about his future as the HC. I don’t anticipate a surprise tournament appearance this season, but certainly watch for Northwestern as a home dog to upset some teams and you may even see me dropping some cash on them a few times in that scenario.