The Wildcats, coming off of a 9-15 year (6-13 Big Ten) and an early exit in the conference tournament, are poised to make some progress in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Under the helm of head coach Chris Collins, the ‘Cats pulled out a few key upsets over recent Big Ten powerhouses Ohio State and Michigan State, and maintained close contests with opponents such as Iowa and Purdue; however, to improve upon a 12th-place finish in the conference, the Wildcats must rely upon the bulk of the roster returning to Evanston to bolster some camaraderie and drive to move up in the ranks. So without further ado, here is a breakdown of the projected 2021-22 roster.
#0 Boo Buie (Albany, New York): Buie, a rising junior, had some clutch moments in the Wildcats’ notable upset victories against the Buckeyes and Spartans, including a game-winning three to seal the deal against Ohio State as well as a career-high 30 points against Michigan State. Buie also led the team in multiple statistical categories—notably, three-pointers made with 41, and assists, tallying up 96 throughout the season and an average of four per game. As an upperclassman point guard with undeniable speed, Buie will be key in running the Wildcats’ offense in the upcoming year.
#1 Chase Audige (Coram, New York): Following his transfer from William & Mary, Audige had a breakout season with the Wildcats, leading the team in points (295), points per game (12.3), field goals made (112) and steals (37). Audige had noteworthy performances against Iowa, racking up 14 points and going 4-7 from three, as well as a career-high 25 points against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The redshirt junior guard, in tandem with Buie, will be a fundamental piece for the Wildcats this season, not only in terms of running the offense but also in maintaining defensive consistency.
#22 Pete Nance (Akron, Ohio): With the loss of forward Miller Kopp to in-conference foe Indiana, Nance will have to play a major role in the Wildcats’ front court game. The senior forward has not only been a regular starter for the past few seasons—therefore providing a wealth of experience in terms of running set plays—but he has also provided the help Northwestern has needed on the defensive side of the ball and can further build on those skills. Specifically, Nance led the team in blocks and rebounds with 17 and 163, respectively. More importantly, the majority of those boards came from the back court, as Nance tallied 140 defensive rebounds and averaged 5.8 per game. Ultimately, for the Wildcats to move up in the rankings, Nance will have to recall notable performances from the previous season (especially contests against Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan) and contribute as a valuable two-way player.
REGULARS & RETURNERS
#15 Ryan Young (Stewartsville, New Jersey): Young (who, fun fact, is a Canadian and American dual citizen) is the Wildcats’ go-to big man. The redshirt junior is the only center on the roster that played every game last season. As seen from his 2019-2020 debut in Evanston before the pandemic hit, Young has the potential to explode on the offensive side of the ball, as he finished the season with a team-best 53.5% field goal percentage. Young is also a key piece for shutting down opponents, as he came second to Nance in rebounds last season with 115 (73 defensive) and is tied for second on the team with 10 blocks on the 2020-21 year. If he can continue to pull out performances such as his one against Michigan this past season, in which he scored nine points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, it will be hard to take Young off of the court.
#3 Ty Berry (Newton, Kansas): Although this rising sophomore guard will still be learning the ropes from upperclassmen Buie and Audige, Berry made a name for himself in his first year as a Wildcat. The guard scored the most points in a Wildcat’s debut since 2015 with 15 points against the season-opener, Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Berry also racked up 12 points (3-4 from three), and a career-high three steals coming off the bench in Northwestern’s victory over Michigan State on December 20.
#2 Ryan Greer (Atlanta, Georgia): Greer, a 6’2” guard, will be returning to the hardwood for his final year in purple and white. Although he averaged 13.1 min per game last season, Greer can play a role in bolstering the Wildcats’ game come November. With memorable appearances such as a career-high 10 points and team-best six assists against then-ranked #5 Iowa, and a nine point, five rebound performance against Indiana, Greer has the potential to provide some help on the offensive side of the ball. This past season, Greer led the Wildcats in assist/turnover ratio at 2.62.
#31 Robbie Beran (Richmond, Virginia): Beran, a rising junior, will have the opportunity to play a significant role in the Wildcats’ front court this upcoming season, along with fellow forward Nance. Averaging 20.2 minutes per game, Beran tallied 136 points on the 2020-21 season. Beran led the team in scoring in two major contests: Michigan (14 points, 6-10) and Illinois (11 points, five boards and four assists). He also finished out the year with 10 blocks, ranking third on the team.
BACK FROM THE BENCH
#34 Matthew Nicholson (Clarkston, Michigan): This 7-foot center is making his return to Evanston for his sophomore campaign after appearing in 9 games last season. While Nicholson has not seen too much time on the court thus far in his career as a Wildcat, he has the potential to earn some minutes as the backup for Young and build upon performances such as his 4 point, 2 rebound appearance in a victory against Quincy on December 15, 2021.
#53 Roy Dixon III (Atlanta, Georgia): Dixon III, a walk-on guard, appeared in 3 games last year, totaling 6 minutes on the season and recording his first career steal against Quincy. A rising junior, whose father, Roy played basketball (and was even a team captain) for Northwestern from 1982-86, Dixon III not only has passion for the school and the sport, but can also provide some meaningful experience for the newcomers.
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#54 Dylan Sandhu (Northville, Michigan): Sandhu is also a walk-on guard, who made his collegiate debut as a redshirt sophomore last year in the season-opener against Arkansas Pine-Bluff. He also made an appearance in Northwestern’s victory against Quincy, and recorded one rebound last year.
FRESH FACES ON THE LAKE
#5 Julian Roper II (Detroit, Michigan): An incoming 6’3”, 180-lb guard, Roper II was ranked as the No. 4 prospect in Michigan, and was one of five finalists for the Mr. Basketball award. In his senior year at St. Mary's High School, Roper II averaged 20.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. According to head coach Chris Collins, “He's the definition of a two-way player: really takes a lot of pride on both ends of the floor. He's a lockdown defender, a guy who can get to the rim, an aggressive scorer and a strong, powerful athlete as a wing player.”
#13 Brooks Barnhizer (Lafayette, Indiana): Barnhizer, an incoming guard, is the son of former college athletes Mark and Heidi Barnhizer, who played basketball at Purdue and Auburn and softball at Auburn, respectively. Coming out of his high school career, Barnhizer is ranked as the No. 5 recruit out of Indiana, and averaged 32.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 3.8 steals per game in his senior campaign. In the words of Coach Collins, “He is strong and very versatile. Can pass, can handle the ball and can score. He's a winning basketball player. He makes winning plays and has a great basketball IQ.”
#14 Casey Simmons (Milton, Massachusetts): An incoming four-star recruit and No. 1 ranked prospect out of Massachusetts, Simmons is a guard that will be arriving in Evanston after completing his senior season, in which he averaged 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game. Simmons also competed against current Wildcat guard, Boo Buie, in high school. As per Collins, “He is a super athletic, versatile, long, aggressive wing player. He can slash, he can play above the rim and he's a terrific defender. He's a guy who's gotten better every year in high school.”
The Wildcats will be returning to the court November 22 in the Legends Classic at Newark’s Prudential Center, which will include opponents Virginia, Georgia and Providence.
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