At start of Collins era, everyone's buying in basketball columnist Michael Hlebasko makes his debut.

For the first time in years, the Northwestern Wildcats basketball team feels like a program with an identity. The past few seasons, we knew exactly how the team was going to play on the court—but this is something entirely different. From the top down, the Wildcats are a team united not just by goals, but also by an understanding of how they plan to reach those goals.

At the team media session on Tuesday, Chris Collins, Drew Crawford, Dave Sobolewski and Jershon Cobb explained the team's goals the same way, nearly verbatim. Each of them refused to put out a desired number of wins or single out a postseason tournament that would satisfy their goals.

Instead, they stated that the team is concentrating on improving as much as they can every day and cultivate an identity for playing hard. It's difficult to imagine a member of the previous staff saying, as Chris Collins did during his time with the media that "We want the teams playing against us to know they're in for a dogfight." After years of Wildcats basketball that–despite producing some of the best seasons in terms of wins in school history–frustrated fans due to a perceived lack of instilled intensity on the court, this is a sorely needed change of direction.

This concentration on process rather than tangible short-term goals means that Wildcats fans will have to be patient. That's not to say that we should write off the upcoming season–there's definitely some talent here–but it's going to take time for Collins to create his ideal culture in Evanston.

In some places, he knows where to begin. Collins takes over a team full of players who were basically taught not to play help defense since they arrived on campus, so it made sense when stated the main thing he wants to bring from Duke is constant communication on the court.

There's still work to be done. Collins went on to describe his offense as "free-flowing." He may as well have called his system the anti-Princeton. Collins is going to trust his players to make plays—something that has not been a part of this program for a long time.

Coach Collins' refusal to place a ceiling on the Wildcat's potential also gives them a lower floor. That may be scary right now, but unless the players were being insincere and just toeing the company line by explaining their goals, it's only a matter of time before the program turns its potential into victories, and not only of the moral kind.

It's clear that the players have bought in. Everyone at the media session had a fire in his manner that seemed totally foreign to past Northwestern teams. Tuesday's media session sure felt like the start of something special in Evanston. Let's hope the basketball lives up to the words.

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