Making the case for Boo Buie, Chase Audige, Robbie Beran to return

Mar 28, 2023 - 6:10 PM
NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-<a href=Northwestern vs UCLA" src="" />
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, Northwestern concluded its best season in recent program history. After finishing with a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament, the Wildcats were eliminated by UCLA, 68-63, in the Round of 32, thus killing all hope of a long-awaited Gonzaga rematch (sigh!).

Nonetheless, the core of Chase Audige, Boo Buie and Robbie Beran remained consistent in 2022, which arguably spark-plugged the Big Ten’s biggest comeback story. Nearly all Big Ten and college basketball pundits, including those at Inside NU, predicted that the Wildcats would get off to a hot start in non-conference action before teetering off when the new year dawned.

Audige, Beran and Buie had little to no reason to stay after an abysmal 2021-22 season, but they believed in the vision and mission that Chris Collins and his staff were trying to achieve. And it paid off in a major way, as Northwestern finished 22-12, featuring a rivalry win against Illinois and critical road wins against Rutgers and Wisconsin.

Not only was Collins the Big Ten Coach of the Year, but Buie earned First Team All-Big Ten honors while Audige was named the conference’s best defender. And the numbers proved it. Beran was also productive throughout the year, averaging over 20 minutes per game and nearly five rebounds. His post presence was also tough to stop, given his nearly 7-foot frame.

The Wildcats’ fate rested on the shoulders of Buie, who quickly became one of the Big Ten’s most exciting players. Buie averaged 17.3 points per game, including hitting the game-winning shot against then-No. 14 Indiana, which all but clinched a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Then, of course, there’s Audige, who arguably had the most pressure entering the 2022-23 season. He was set to be the team’s most prominent player after Pete Nance and Ryan Young departed via the transfer portal.

Despite the low expectations, Audige delivered and proved the national media wrong. The senior guard averaged 14.1 points per game, guaranteeing that Northwestern would remain competitive in nearly every game. His breakout performance came in a Jan. 28 win against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, playing nearly 40 minutes while scoring a game-high 24 points in a thrashing victory, 81-61. Win or lose, Audige played hard and wore the purple and white on his chest proudly.

Truly, whatever decision this trio lands on will make NU fans proud. Given all they’ve had to go through — between the COVID season, losing to the same teams every year and missing out on the tournament (until this season) — they’ve done it all.

Is there unfinished business and parity in the Big Ten as the transfer portal continues to be the talk of college athletics? Of course, but what makes them unique is that they are program guys. They stuck with the team when several decided not to, blocking out all unwanted media attention and just playing their game how they saw fit. And it worked. It’s as simple as that.

As Buie said after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes in late January, the team strives for more than to be just a one-hit-wonder.

“We always say in the locker room, we’re all on a different mission,” Buie said.

Is 2023-24 the year of completing the so-called “different mission” and moving one step closer to winning a national title? If Buie, Beran and Audige return to Evanston, the answer could be an emphatic “yes.”

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