This is the fifth and final one of five season recaps that appeared this week. There was one each day in reverse order of current KenPom ranking, so check the archives for your team.
This wasn't the year that Northwestern made the NCAA Tournament, but it wasn't a complete loss either. The Wildcats showed some growth and even won a postseason game.
It also was a year that was filled with obstacles to overcome. Whether it was the injuries to John Shurna and JerShon Cobb, or the continuous chatter about whether Bill Carmody should be fired at the end of the season, the Wildcats had a lot of stuff to deal with.
Against Washington State it looked like Northwestern was going to finally catch a break and make it back to Madison Square Garden to play in the semifinals of the NIT, but it wasn't to be. Instead the 'Cats bowed out after two good victories - over Milwaukee and Boston College - and now prepare for another season in which the Big Dance will be on everyone's mind.
Season Statistical Snapshot:
- Final KenPom: 50
- KenPom Offense: 17
- KenPom Defense: 121
- Final Record: 20-14
- Conference Record: 7-11
Season Highlights: Even though they didn't play anyone, starting the season 8-0 was a good for the Wildcats. It brought attention to the program for a good reason - winning. Also, victories over Michigan and Illinois at home turned out to be pretty nice. Both teams ended up being decent NCAA Tournament squads. Finally, there aren't many moral victories in basketball, but losing to Ohio State twice in close games, once without Shurna in the lineup, has to be considered a positive as well.
Season Lowlight: Two teams really defined Northwestern's season - Wisconsin and Penn State. Both losses to the Nittany Lions were ugly affairs. Scoring 41 points in 59 possessions in Happy Valley was inexcusable. But was losing 78-46 at home to Wisconsin worse? It's a tough call. Those two teams really controlled the court against Northwestern and prevented the Wildcats from having a more successful season.
Player to Remember: Michael 'Juice' Thompson - Sr, G: A lot has already been written about Thompson and deservedly so. If he's not already, he'll be remembered as one of the all-time greats at the school. Juice finishes his career first all-time in assists (528), first in minutes played (4,633), first in games played and games started (129), second in three-point field goals (276), third in points (1,689) and fifth in steals (159). It's a remarkable career.
Next Year: Northwestern has to replace two rotation players next season - Thompson and Mike Capocci. How well they're able to do that will determine how far the Wildcats go.
Personally, I think that Alex Marcotullio will step into the lineup at the off-guard position, JerShon Cobb will become the Wildcats' point guard and incoming recruits David Sobolewski and Tre Demps will get some playing time in spurts off the bench. Marcotullio proved down the stretch he's ready for an expanded role and Cobb had the best turnover rate of any Wildcat (and the 64th best in the entire nation) as a freshman.
It's going to be the front court that makes or breaks Northwestern's season once again. How Davide Curletti and Luka Mirkovic play is going to have a big impact on how far Northwestern goes. Another big factor is whether Shurna and Drew Crawford can stay healthy and if Carmody trusts either Nick Fruendt or incoming recruit Mike Turner to give the team some minutes off the bench.
It should be a really interesting season and the Wildcats will have another legitimate opportunity at making the NCAA Tournament, but fans in Evanston are used to heartbreak and their team might come up just short again.