The Reaction: Challenges for Collins

Northwestern continues to challenge itself, this time with the decision to join the 2013 Las Vegas Invitational field. Publisher Nick Medline weighs in.

Jeff Goodman confirmed on Thursday afternoon that Northwestern basketball will compete in the 2013 Las Vegas Invitational along with Missouri, UCLA and Nevada.

First thought: very interesting.

If the team struggles in the first year under Chris Collins–even with Drew Crawford returning–so be it. The new head coach continues to look like the home-run hire as advertised.

He'll face immediate challenges in the non-conference schedule, as indicated by NU accepting its bid to an impressive tournament. At the very least, this marks a step forward from South Padre.

It's an opportunity for ESPN to discuss the new coaching situation at Northwestern—regardless of results. It's another notable PR decision, and a fearless one at that.

Even if the Cats struggle out of the gate, the four-team field would only allow them to lose twice. On the other hand, a win against Missouri or UCLA might infuse the program with newfound energy.

2013 commit Nate Taphorn spoke to Purple Wildcats about the benefits of Collins representing the NU program. Taphorn said Collins has brought "electricity" through his appearances at the United Center and Wrigley Field. This will be another opportunity to showcase the team momentum.

Collins brings exciting passion to the recruiting front. And most of all, he believes that the program can build in its current circumstances. His introductory press conference never focused on the natural shortcomings of this position. This team can eventually win, and he's making believers out of the once-dwindling fan base.

More important than Crawford's return, I'd argue, is having a solid young core in place. Sanjay Lumpkin–an excellent athlete–has four years of eligibility remaining. Everyone I've spoken with has praised Nate Taphorn, who looks to immediately fit in as a perimeter threat.

Overall, it's another positive for Northwestern basketball in an offseason full of them.

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