North: Chris Collins the right choice for Northwestern

Updated 3/17/2017 6:44 AM
  • Northwestern head coach Chris Collins celebrates as he shouts to his team during its NCAA Tournament game against Vanderbilt. Northwestern won 68-66 and will face Gonzaga next.

    Northwestern head coach Chris Collins celebrates as he shouts to his team during its NCAA Tournament game against Vanderbilt. Northwestern won 68-66 and will face Gonzaga next. Associated Press

It's all NCAA tournament talk right now, and I can't help but send congratulations to the Northwestern Wildcats and appreciate that the state of Illinois finally has a team in the tournament.

I remember calling their athletic director, Jim Phillips, when the Wildcats were hunting for a coach, and asked him to consider former NBA player Jim Les for the job. While Phillips said he would add Les to the list, he hired Chris Collins and definitely got it right.

Les, a Notre Dame College Prep alum who was hired to coach at UC Davis, has been equally successful because the Aggies also are in the tournament for the first time.

Collins has been the perfect fit for the Wildcats, and I started thinking about his credentials and everything that brought him to this point in his career.

Here's a guy who not only played for the one of the best, Mike Krzyzewski, but continued to learn under his tutelage as an associate coach. As if that isn't enough, his father, Doug, also a great coach and basketball mind, no doubt taught Chris more than a thing or two about the game.

Can you imagine the breakfast table conversation at that house? The kid was probably learning about basketball from the moment he could speak.

Chris Collins has been primed for this moment his whole life, and getting the Wildcats to the tournament for the first time is one of his biggest accomplishments.

It's a little crazy to think the Cats have never gone when you consider they only needed five guys on the court. But all that doesn't matter, because the Northwestern Wildcats are participating in the big dance, and getting set to play No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the second round after beating Vanderbilt in a close game Thursday.

When it comes to the rest of the field, there are a few other good storylines to share.

Illinois State (28-6 overall) should have been invited to the NCAA tournament, but wasn't. The selection committee's excuse is based on the strength of schedule, but I can't blame coach Dan Muller for being upset because it seems other teams only want to play them at home, not on the road. What can he do?

You have to give credit to Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork and head coach Andy Kennedy, who have taken Muller up on his offer to compete next season. Maybe some other schools will rise to the challenge and help Illinois State get a better schedule.

A lot of people have jumped on the UCLA bandwagon because of Lonzo Ball and his loudmouth father, LaVar Ball, who boasts that his son is better than Magic Johnson or Steph Curry. Please! And why would any dad put some so much pressure on his son?

I've never been good at the bracket challenge despite filling out numerous scenarios, so this year I have only done two. Maybe this is my year!

After the tourney is over, there's the Masters and opening day for baseball, so I plan on enjoying a month of ecstasy!

• Follow Mike on Twitter @north2north. Check out his podcast Monday-Friday at, iTunes or audioboom. His column appears each Friday in the Daily Herald. For more, visit

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