No. 19 Northwestern expects continued success
In the wake of the first NCAA Tournament berth in school history, the Northwestern Wildcats own high expectations for the new season.
With four returning starters from a 24-12 team and over 85 percent of its scoring and rebounding coming back, 19th-ranked Northwestern has its eyes set on another NCAA Tournament bid, among other things.
"We aren't just satisfied with making the tournament," senior guard Bryant McIntosh said. "We want to win, and we want to win big... We want to win championships. It could be a Big Ten championship, Big Ten tournament championship, preseason tournament and going to the Final Four. I don't think any of those are out of the possibility."
McIntosh averaged a team-high 14.8 points per game during the 2016-17 season and also led the team at 5.8 assists per game. He was a unanimous selection for the preseason Big Ten all-conference team.
The Wildcats open regular-season play Friday night against Loyola (Maryland), which amassed a 16-17 record last season, finishing 8-10 in the Patriot League. The game will be held at All-State Arena in Rosemont, Ill., which will serve as the Wildcats' home court this season while a $110 million renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena is being completed.
As Northwestern gears up for its season opener, veterans of the team are emphasizing a focus on future goals, not past accomplishments.
"This year, we can't really dwell on last year," forward Scottie Lindsey said. "That's been a theme of all of our practices so far. We're trying to take another step forward; and, in order to do that, we've got to move past last year. Just keep working hard, keep grinding and be ready for that first game."
The Greyhounds welcome back three starters, including guard Andre Walker, who averaged a team-best 14.9 points and 3.9 assists per game last season, and forward Cam Gregory.
For fifth-year coach G.G. Smith, this season is all about fine-tuning the Greyhounds' offense, which will feature several newcomers. Loyola averaged just under 66 points per game last season, shooting 42 percent from the field, including 32.9 percent from 3-point range.
"Our downfall the last couple years has been offensive efficiency," Smith said. "I think one of the reasons that's going to change this year is that we really have four guys on the floor who can shoot the ball. We have Ian Langendoerfer, who will probably start for us at the 4, and we have a freshman named Brent Holcombe ... guys who can really, NBA range, step behind the (3-point arc) and make some shots."
While Collins may have the luxury of four returning starters, he discussed the challenges of fostering the right chemistry for the upcoming season.
"Even though you look at our roster and it's a lot of the same guys, it's going to be a different dynamic," Collins said. "You've got guys who are a year older. You've got guys who have gotten better. You've got a couple new guys in the fold. How do they integrate themselves? How do roles change? How do they stay the same? Even though you've got the same names and the same guys, every team is a new season, a new journey."
Updated November 9, 2017