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Wisch: Can Collins Keep It Up At Northwestern?

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Chris Collins. (Credit: Jonathan Daniel, Getty)

Chris Collins. (Credit: Jonathan Daniel, Getty)

Dave Wischnowsky Dave Wischnowsky
Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred...
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By Dave Wischnowsky –

(CBS) When it comes to the glory days of Northwestern basketball, there’s a lot more daze than there is glory.

The Wildcats have never made an NCAA Tournament. The last time they had a winning record in the Big Ten was back in 1968 – when Chris Collins’ dad was a junior in high school. They’ve only had one .500 season in the league once since then.

And so on, and so on …

However, heading into today’s home game against No. 10 Iowa (11 a.m., BTN), Chris Collins’ Northwestern squad is looking like a team that has a shot to actually accomplish something very few NU teams have done before it.

They could give their coach a winning record in his first year.

Thanks to a stunning three-game conference win streak that’s included victories over Illinois, Indiana and Purdue, NU is now at 10-10 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten with 11 games regular-season games remaining.

To pull off a winning record for the year, NU would have to go 6-5 down the stretch and then win at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament. That remains a very tall order considering how strong the Big Ten is this season and that NU still has six road games on its schedule.

But it is now something within the realm of possibility, and if Collins was able to pull of an above-.500 record in his first season in Evanston, he’d be the first coach to do so since Ricky Byrdsong went 15-14 during his NU debut 20 years ago in 1993-94.

Prior to Byrdsong, the only other Northwestern coach since the early 1950s to notch a winning record in Season 1 was William Rohr in 1957-58. Other Wildcats coaching debuts since 1952 have included losing records from the octet of Bill Carmody (11-19 in 2000-01); Kevin O’Neill (10-17 in 1997-98); Bill Foster (7-21 in 1986-87); Rich Falk (6-21 in 1978-79); Tex Winter (9-15 in 1973-74); Brad Snyder (9-15 in 1969-70); Larry Glass (8-13 in 1963-64) and Waldo Fisher (6-16 in 1952-53).

That’s hardly an Elite Eight.

But after Wednesday’s double-overtime victory over Purdue, Collins is starting to make his rookie season a memorable, it not elite, one.

“It’s not pretty, we know that, but as long as we can find a way to get the job done it doesn’t matter,” he said about beating the Boilermakers. “My main goal this year was to make this team a scrappy, hard-nosed team that fights.”

So far in the Big Ten, it’s been one that wins, too.

Whether Collins’ bunch can keep it up remains to be seen, but by NU hoops standards this winning run is indeed delivering Northwestern fans days worth of glory.

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