I often try to keep this blog even keeled. I believe that college students deserve the benefit of the doubt. At the end of the day they're 18 to 23 year-olds playing a game. I like to focus on the analytical side of things. This isn't that. After Northwestern's last two performances on the road at Michigan and Penn State I'm fed up.
I want to know, what the excuse? Because there shouldn't be one.
It's not that Northwestern is a young team. The Wildcats are right in the middle of the NCAA in terms of experience. They start three upperclassmen, a sophomore and a freshman. Another junior and a senior come off the bench. It's not like this is DePaul, which has three freshmen playing prominent roles, or Iowa, which has three sophomores and two freshmen in the rotation. This team should know better. They shouldn't sleepwalk through a half where they score 15 points.
It's not that Northwestern doesn't have talent. Penn State has Talor Battle and Jeff Brooks, but is there another player on the Nittany Lions that would definitively start for the Wildcats? No. John Shurna, Michael Thompson, Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb are all players that other programs wanted. All of them have shown at some point that they can be solid to very good players in the Big Ten.
So what is it? Is it the academics? It's not finals week. It's not like players at Penn State or Michigan don't have to go to class. Don't get me wrong, I've see the tweets from Crawford, Thompson and Alex Marcotullio. I understand how much they work, in the classroom and on the court, and how much they appreciate the opportunity, but it's not an excuse. Is it the injuries? Because if teams can figure out how to defend an injured Shurna then Bill Carmody has to figure out how maximize the talent he has on the floor.
Northwestern will be hard pressed to make the NIT. If all Northwestern does is win its final three home games it'll finish 17-12, 7-11 in the Big Ten. The Wildcats will be right where they were last season, on the NIT bubble. The chances of winning all three according to Ken Pomeroy? 34%. Yup Northwestern has a 1/3 chance of being on the bubble to be team #100.
Thursday against Iowa this team reaches yet another crossroads. I don't believe this team has quit. The players aren't looking forward to the NBA or playing for next season like the other Big Ten team in the state. But if this is how it ends, it's a sad note to such a promising start.
Depressing numbers (because there have to be some):
- 2-21 (9.5%) is what Northwestern shot from 3.
- 11 was how much points Cobb scored to lead the team.
- 0.695 was home many points per possession the Wildcats scored.
- 18-29 (62%) is what Penn State shot on two-point attempts.
- 23 is how many free throws the Nittany Lions attempted.
Add it all up and you've got one depressing loss.