Northwestern Men’s Basketball Season Recap

By Dylan Friedland

Northwestern Men’s Basketball’s 2022-23 season was one that far exceeded expectations and resulted in the ‘Cats’ second ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. 

It followed a 2021-22 season when the Wildcats finished 15-16 and Ryan Young and Pete Nance transferred to Duke and UNC, respectively. Northwestern then shocked the college basketball world and ended the 2022-23 season with a record of 22-12 and a second placed finish in the Big Ten. This performance was largely caused by senior Boo Buie, redshirt senior Chase Audige, and a heavy defensive effort. 

Following a 5-0 start to the season, the ‘Cats ran into 13th ranked Auburn at the Cancun Challenge. A strong defensive performance held the Tigers to 43 points but Northwestern was unable to pull off the victory, losing 43-42. This was the first sign into what this team could be built out of. However, the following game, the ‘Cats were blown out 87-58 by Pittsburgh and the doubts were back on. The ‘Cats continued with the inconsistency by opening up Big Ten play with a 70-63 win over 20th ranked Michigan State. Buie was the key to victory with 20 points, with the Michigan State game marking one of 14 games where Buie scored 20 or more.
Once the calendar changed to 2023, Northwestern split its first two Big Ten home games, losing to Ohio State but defeating in-state rival, Illinois. While Chase Audige was well known for his defensive presence, his offensive breakout began during the Illinois game when he put up 21 points in the 73-60 win. The Illinois game was also the first of many games where the student section would be completely full, amplifying the energy inside Welsh-Ryan Arena. 

The ‘Cats continued the strong start to the Big Ten season by going on the road to Bloomington, Indiana and knocking off the 15th ranked Hoosiers 84-83. Buie and Audige combined for 45 points. However, things took a turn south after this. The ‘Cats dropped 2 straight games to Rutgers and Michigan before a COVID-19 outbreak forced Northwestern to pause the season. Games against Wisconsin and Iowa were forced to be rescheduled. 
With questions lingering about how the ‘Cats would react, the team came out of the break flying and won eight of their next ten games. The streak included the signature win of the season, and probably of Chris Collins’ Northwestern tenure. The number one ranked team in the nation, Purdue, came to Evanston on Super Bowl Sunday and the ‘Cats pulled off the upset, winning 64-58. Northwestern trailed nearly the entire game and found themselves down by 8 with 3:43 left to play. They needed a hero and Chase Audige did his best “playoff Jimmy” impression, scoring 10 points in that span as the ‘Cats came back to win. Boo Buie also had a terrific game, scoring 26. This became Northwestern’s first ever win over a top-ranked opponent. 

Continuing the hot streak, Northwestern defeated 14th ranked Indiana, 64-62, to complete the season sweep the very next game. After letting a 19-point halftime lead slip away, Boo Buie hit a game-winning layup with 2.7 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, this would not be the only large lead that they gave up last season. A couple of games later, the ‘Cats blew an 18 point halftime lead on the road at Illinois and ended up losing 66-62. Despite the loss, Buie had a career-high 35 point performance. 

The regular season finished off with the ‘Cats defeating Rutgers on the road 65-53. This locked in the second seed for Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament and set a program record for Big Ten wins in a season with 12 wins. The Big Ten Tournament did not go the Wildcats’ way as they suffered an overtime loss to Penn State, 67-65, in their first game of the tournament. The ‘Cats struggled to shoot going 21 for 66 from the field in that game. 
However, the strong regular season performance was enough for the ‘Cats to hear their name called on Selection Sunday as they were chosen as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This marked only the second time in program history that Northwestern would be playing in the big dance. In their first game against No. 10 seed Boise State, it was a total team effort that led to a 75-67 win. Four players scored in double figures for Northwestern in the game, and Buie led the way with 22. 

The ‘Cats then saw their season come to an end during the second round of the NCAA Tournament after losing 68-63 to No. 2 seed UCLA. After falling behind by as many as 13 points early on in the second half, the Wildcats came racing back and managed to tie the game up but were not able to hold on for the win. Matthew Nicholson was a bright spot for the team going a perfect 7 for 7 from the field and finishing with 17 points.

Overall, the 2022-23 Northwestern Men’s Basketball season was arguably the most successful season in program history. Looking ahead to the 2023-24 season, the ‘Cats will be without Chase Audige, who declared for the NBA draft, as well as Robbie Beran and Julian Roper II, who transferred to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame respectively. Coach Chris Collins managed to bring in some transfers of his own with Princeton guard Ryan Langborg,  Liberty forward Blake Preston, and Denver guard Justin Mullins all heading to Evanston. With Boo Buie, Matthew Nicholson, and Ty Berry returning, and Brooks Barnhizer set for an expanded role, the team looks to be in a prime spot to continue the success from last season.