The Northwestern Wildcats open their 2020-21 season Wednesday night with a non-conference matchup against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Evanston, Ill. (Pregame Wednesday night, 7:45pm, WGN Radio 720 AM and our digital streams – https://wgnradio.com/on-air/)
Northwestern enters the new season after a disappointing 2019-20 season, when the team went 8-23, including three losses to low-major programs and only three wins in the Big Ten Conference.
The Wildcats will play four non-conference games over the next two weeks before opening conference play Dec. 20 against Michigan State.
After having only one senior and one graduate transfer on the team last year, the Wildcats have no seniors on their roster this season. However, that doesn’t mean the program is inexperienced, as the team has players with 73 percent of its total minutes played returning from last season.
“I feel like the guys are improved,” coach Chris Collins said. “I know every coach says that until you start playing games, but I have noticed improvement in a lot of the returning guys. I feel like we are more dynamic athletically.”
Leading the charge is Miller Kopp, who averaged a team-high 13.2 points per game on 39.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Boo Buie, who averaged 10.9 points a game as a freshman last season, is expected to be the lead ballhandler for the Wildcats, with freshman Ty Berry also impressing coaches in the preseason.
For the Golden Lions (0-3), this is the fourth straight game to open the season against a Power 5 conference program.
Sunday in its most recent game, Arkansas-Pine Bluff played Iowa State and had a 37-34 halftime lead. But the Cyclones turned up their play in the second half to cruise to an 80-63 victory.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Markedric Bell and Dequan Morris had double-doubles in the game.
The Golden Lions finished 4-26 season last season.
Shaun Doss Jr. has been the story early for Arkansas-Pine Bluff this season. He is averaging 19.3 points per game — over 10 points more than the team’s second-leading scorer — including a 27-point outburst in the opener against Marquette.
The expectations are high for Doss, a redshirt junior who missed the final 27 games of last season due to injury.
“We think we’ve got some good basketball players,” coach George Ivory told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last month. “But Doss, he’s really good.”
–Field Level Media