Well, this is it. Throw out whatever cliche you want. Without Kevin Coble in the lineup Northwestern can use whatever motivation it can gather. Want to be the underdog? Sure, Northwestern is getting 4 points according to USA Today's Danny Sheridan. Want to say nobody believes in you? Okay, well without Coble, Craig Moore and Jeff Ryan that's certainly the case. But I've got a better one. This season for Northwestern fits perfectly into Bill Simmons' Ewing Theory.
Simmons does seem to have a strange disdain for the college game - he's noted before that he basically watches to scout NBA players - but his 2001 column which explicitly introduced the Ewing Theory included two college basketball examples. The Utah Utes - with Keith Van Horn as Ewing - went to the NCAA title game the year after Van Horn went to the NBA and in that same year the Kentucky Wildcats - which lost Rick Pitino, Derek Anderson and Ron Mercer - went on to beat the Utes and win the NCAA Title.
In order for a team to qualify for the Ewing Theory a team must do two things:
- A star athlete receives an inordinate amount of media attention
and fan interest, and yet his teams never win anything substantial with
him (other than maybe some early-round playoff series).
- That same athlete leaves his team (either by injury, trade,
graduation, free agency or retirement) -- and both the media and fans
immediately write off the team for the following season.
Hello Kevin Coble and the Northwestern Wildcats of the 2009-10 season.
Do you honestly think that a casual college basketball fan can name a single Wildcat that will be on the floor when they tip off against #10 Butler? Who is the biggest name left? (John Shurna maybe?)
Sure, Coble was underrepresented by the media in the past. Thanks to his foot injury though there have been scores of articles written about him over the past two weeks. Heck, Northwestern even made it onto the front page of ESPN.com thanks to Coble. (Photo via Fire Bill Carmody - The title I don't support, the information I do.)
Now though, everything the pundits were predicting has gone down the tubes. The media outlets are hunkering down for another long season in Evanston, Ill. Why exactly? There's still a lot of talent on this team. The fact is most of Northwestern's talent is sophomore players - exactly the type you'd expect to step up this season. The 1-3-1 zone will continue to perplex opponents - as the game against Northern Illinois showed - and the Princeton Offense isn't supposed to rely on just one player.
Nobody should give up on the Wildcats just yet. They're a perfect candidate for a Ewing Theory season and their first ever NCAA Tournament berth.
Note: There is a great post over at Bleacher Report on a somewhat similar subject.