Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/17/15
Northwestern head coach Chris Collins celebrates his first career Big Ten win against Illinois. (Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune) No one gave Northwestern a chance this season. With new head coach Chris Collins inheriting former coach Bill Carmody’s team, many pegged this season as a lost year in between regimes. Add in the fact that redshirt senior guard Drew Crawford was the team’s only true go-to player before the season, and the Wildcats seemed destined to dwell at the bottom of the Big Ten once again. They followed that script perfectly for the better part of two months, going 7-9 and losing their first three conference games by a total of 76 points. Heading into their matchup against Illinois Jan. 12, it looked like a real possibility that the Wildcats would go winless in the Big Ten for the first time since the 1999-00 season. But they defeated the Fighting Illini, 49-43, setting in a motion a 5-2 conference run that currently has them fourth in the Big Ten, 12-11 overall. Northwestern’s improved play can be attributed to many things, none more important than team unity. Crawford, who could have transferred to a number of teams bound for the NCAA Tournament this season, has been the glue keeping this rebuilding together. He has proven to be the team’s stalwart, leading Northwestern with 16.3 points per game. Aside from statistics, Crawford provides the team with much needed leadership as one of the team’s only two seniors. Guard Tre Demps has also asserted himself as a second-option off the bench for the Wildcats. Demps hit three clutch three-pointers against Illinois in the game’s final minutes to propel the team to the win. He followed that performance with some more timely shot-making against India at Assembly Hall, and then at home against Purdue. Demps leads the Big Ten in bench scoring with 10.7 points per game. Of course, offensive numbers are nice but Crawford and Demps—and even JerShon Cobb— do not get much help from the rest of the team. The Wildcats do, however, make their living on the defensive side of the ball. Northwestern ranks 2nd in the Big Ten with 63.3 points allowed per game, only behind Ohio State’s 59.3. They also keep their opponents shooting at just about 40%. Even at barely .500, the Wildcats are exceeded expectations. Just not the ones Collins placed on the program in just his first year. Since taking over the head-coaching job last March, Collins has created a new culture surrounding Northwestern basketball. Gone are the days of complacency with being a sub-par program. While this year’s team is giving the Big Ten elites all they can handle, Collins has already secured the best recruiting class in school history. His first signee, Vic Law of St. Rita High School in Chicago, is the 66th ranked player in the class of 2014, according to the ESPN 100. While an NCAA Tournament berth does not seem likely this season, the Wildcats have a very good chance at finishing above .500 overall. Not bad for a team rebuilding for the future.
PLAYERS: Drew Crawford
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Cavs players believed team lacked depth

Richard Sherman calls out Kraft, Goodell over their friendship

Brandon Jennings to miss 6-9 months with Achilles injury

Report: Josh Gordon tests positive for alcohol

Report: Yankees reject A-Rod's request for apology meeting


Jim Harbaugh has landed three recruits in 24 hours

Report: NFL tried to catch Patriots in the act

John Harbaugh: Bill Belichick is best coach of this century

Van Gundy rips Bulls management about Thibs

NFL warns Seahawks about 'obscene gestures'

Lane Kiffin will remain with Alabama in 2015

WATCH: Hassan Whiteside blocks five shots in 7 minutes

Duke unveils 'K' hats after Coach K's 1,000th victory

Irina Shayk dumped Ronaldo over cheating rumors?

Mike Napoli almost retired because of sleep apnea

WATCH: 'Saturday Night Live' takes on Deflategate

Should Tom Izzo be worried about his Spartans?

Five potentially fatal flaws for Seahawks in the Super Bowl

WATCH: Urban, OSU students send message to Mark May

The five best Super Bowl matchups ever

WATCH: Mike Riley gets big welcome at Nebraska game

Leonard Fournette's brother commits to LSU

Bledsoe not happy about other QBs trashing Brady

Wildcats News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Brandon Jennings out 6-9 months

Josh Gordon tests positive for alcohol

Report: A-Rod's apology meeting request gets rejected

Harbaugh rapidly landing recruits

WATCH: 'SNL' spoofs Deflategate

NFL tried to catch Pats in act?

Bill Nye: Belichick didn't make sense

Is it time for Tom Izzo to worry?

Jennings suffers horrific injury

Seahawks GM: I love Lynch's act

Lane Kiffin staying with Alabama

Belichick goes 'My Cousin Vinny'

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.