Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins addressed the Big Ten Media Day crowd on Thursday morning. The Wildcats are looking to make a splash in the Big Ten after going 20-12 last year and Collins echoed just that.
“We have high expectations,” he said. “I feel like we have a chance to be competitive this year.
Collins addressed sophomore center Derek Pardon and freshman center Barrett Benson will be taking on a bigger roles this year.
“Alex Olah has been such a constant in our program for the last four years,” said Collins. “I think Derek and Barrett, those two guys kind of tag-teaming that position inside. It’s going to be key for us because it’s our youngest position… If they can give us solid play at that position I think it’s going to make us a much better team.”
Collins was then asked about meeting expectations and getting to the NCAA Tournament.
He responded by saying his team’s aspiration is to play in the postseason.
“You can’t skip steps along the way,” said Collins. “You can’t let your mind wander to March. You’ve got to understand that the games in November and December are as important as the ones in late February and early March.”
Collins said health was a big issue last year and that hopefully the Wildcats can have good health this year.
Collins said his team has gotten better as the year has gone along and played its best basketball at the end of the season.
Closing out close conference games will also be something the Wildcats will have to focus on if they want to make the postseason, Collins said.
Freshman Rapolas Ivanauskas was declared out for the season earlier this week due to a shoulder injury and Collins said he is going to try to turn it into a positive for the 6-foot-9 forward.
“He’s got a big upside and we have high expectations for his career, so we’re going to use it as a positive and have him come back next year and be ready to roll,” said Collins.
The Wildcats will have redshirt sophomore forward Vic Law back though and Collins called him a “jack of all trades.”
“He’s going to be a guy that does a little bit of everything,” said Collins. “He can be a double-figure scorer for us, but I think he’s going to be a good rebounder and he can be a versatile defender and he can be a playmaker… He’s a very good shooter.”
Collins then addressed Bryant McIntosh and his hype before the season, saying he stays away from the outside stuff.
“If we waste time getting fired up about guys getting named all-league preseason, it’s wasting time and energy away from us getting better and staying on the task at hand.”
“We know what we have in Bryant,” said Collins. “Bryant is a great player. Bryant is an elite point guard at the college level. He runs our team. He’s one of the top assist guys in the country returning… I love the fact that he’s the guy running our team.”