2024-25 Big Ten offseason at a glance: Northwestern Wildcats

  • 06/04/2024 7:08 am in

Welcome to “Big Ten offseason at a glance,” a team-by-team look at the conference at the start of the summer. We’ll examine roster movement for each Big Ten roster and give an early outlook for each Big Ten program for the 2024-25 season.

Previously: Penn State, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Rutgers

Today: Northwestern (22-12 overall in 2023-24, 12-8 in Big Ten play)

The Wildcats reached the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history. Northwestern earned a double bye in the Big Ten tournament and beat Florida Atlantic in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats fell to eventual national champion UConn in the round of 32.

Northwestern roster movement

Players returning with eligibility remaining: Ty Berry, Brooks Barnhizer, Nick Martinelli, Matt Nicholson, Luke Hunger, Blake Smith, Jordan Clayton, Justin Mullins, Blake Barkley

Players departing due to exhausted eligibility: Boo Buie, Ryan Langborg, Blake Preston

Players who departed via the transfer portal: Parker Strauss (to UC Riverside)

Players arriving via the transfer portal: Jalen Leach (from Fairfield), Keenan Fitzmorris (from Stony Brook)

Players arriving via high school: KJ Windham, Angelo Ciaravino

Barnhizer entered the NBA draft pool but is expected to return for his senior season in Evanston. The major loss is clearly Buie, Northwestern’s do-everything guard for the last five seasons. He was one of the best players in program history and will be sorely missed.

What to like about Northwestern

The Wildcats have a strong returning nucleus, led by Barnhizer, Berry, Martinelli and Nicholson. Berry, who was injured (torn meniscus) in a win against Nebraska in early February and didn’t play again the rest of the season, will be expected to be the go-to guy in the backcourt.

Barnhizer is one of the best wings in the league and Martinelli and Nicholson know how to play their roles in the frontcourt. Leach also arrives from Fairfield and will use his final year of eligibility in Evanston. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and three assists for the Stags while shooting 35.4 percent on 3s. He was a pivotal pickup for Collins.

What to question with Northwestern

What will Northwestern look like in the post-Buie era?

The program relied on him for production and leadership on the floor and there’s no replacement for the clutch play he brought on a nightly basis.

Northwestern’s outlook for the 2024-25 season

Here is Northwestern’s Big Ten schedule for next season:

Home: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Rutgers, UCLA, USC, Wisconsin
Away: Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, Purdue, Washington
Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland

Northwestern sits at No. 33 in Bart Torvik’s projections for next season, which might seem slightly high after Buie’s departure. But Collins seems to have figured things out in Evanston and has won an NCAA tournament game in back-to-back seasons.

The latest bracketology projections from Joe Lunardi have Northwestern as one of the first four teams out of the field. The Wildcats have solid role players in the front court, but their season will ultimately come down to how well the Barnhizer, Berry and Leach trio performs. We’ve already seen Barnhizer and Berry do it at the Big Ten level but Leach is an unknown as an up transfer from Fairfield. If he succeeds, the Wildcats can be a tournament team for a third straight season.

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