After Northwestern’s men’s basketball team won 20 regular-season games for the first time in school history but finished the season out of the running for major end-of-year tournaments, most observers pointed to a weak nonconference schedule that left the Wildcats with few chances for signature victories and many wins over some of the worst teams in college basketball.
Coach Chris Collins will be hoping that next season’s nonconference slate, announced by the team Wednesday, will give NU a boost as it looks to return to the postseason.
There are no real marquee games among the newly-announced matchups on the schedule. The Cats open the season on Nov. 11 at home against Mississippi Valley State, and ends their nonconference schedule with a four-game home stretch in December against New Orleans, Chicago State, IUPUI, and Houston Baptist. IUPUI ranked No. 203 by KenPom at the end of last season, while the other four teams ranked below No. 270.
On top of these, NU will participate in the Legends Classic tournament in Brooklyn, with games on Nov. 21 and Nov. 22 against two of Notre Dame, Texas, and Colorado. The Cats will host two other to-be-announced team in tie-in games to the Legends Classic on Nov. 14 and Nov. 25.
NU also is slated to travel to Butler on Nov. 16 as a part of the Gavitt Games, host Wake Forest on Nov. 28 as a part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and play Dayton at the United Center on Dec. 17 in the inaugural Chicago Legends event. The team will also host local rival DePaul on Dec. 3
The schedule will give the Cats chances to beat as many as four teams who played in last season’s NCAA Tournament interspersed with games against some of college basketball’s lesser lights. NU will have to hope that this nonconference slate is enough to set the stage for a run at the postseason.