Two years ago, the Northwestern Wildcats won at both Michigan State and Purdue. Both opponents were highly ranked in the national college basketball
polls at the time. That's when the "NU can make it's first ever NCAA
Tournament" talk began. The Cats finished one win shy of the school
record for wins, but still settled for the NIT in 2008-09.
Last season saw their first national ranking since 1969, and a
promising hot start that re-kindled the NU dancing discussion. Once
again they fell well short, despite getting the first 20 win season in
This year saw the Cats start 8-0 and ranked in one poll, receiving
votes in the other. They went 9-2 in the 2010 portion of the season, but
they've been abysmal in the 2011 part of this campaign. Today, their
only chance of reaching March Madness lies in an against all odds run
through the Big Ten Tournament.
Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody has done a great job of taking
the program from forgotten non-factor to competitive respectability, but
these last three years has made it obvious that he's not the man to
take them over the hump.
Some of the problems are not Carmody's fault. John Shurna was having a
conference player of the year type season until he got hurt- twice. And
about halfway through the season his scoring production reduced by
According to Tina Akouris of the Chicago Sun-Times:
But Shurna sprained his ankle in December, and Carmody said
Monday that he aggravated it in the Wildcats' 71-70 victory over
Illinois on Feb. 5.
''He probably won't be perfect until May,'' Carmody said.
In a lot of fans' eyes, Carmody isn't perfect, either. After NU
started the Big Ten season 0-3, the blogosphere was buzzing with
pleas for athletic director Jim Phillips to fire Carmody, who
coincidentally announced his contract extension around the same time.
That extension means he'll likely be around for a couple of years,
but his buyout clause is probably an easily affordable amount. If the
University is serious about winning, they really should consider it. I
don't think they will pull the trigger on cutting him loose, but to
become a big boy program- it's time to get a big time recruiter/coach.
If Pat Fitzgerald can get the college football team to bowl games, than someone out there can get the Cats into the tourney.
In midseason, the University hung banners from the rafters of
Welsh-Ryan Arena honoring every sport. Two stand out due to their high
level of unintentional comedy: men's basketball which reads "4 NIT
Appearances," and baseball which reads "15 Big Ten pitching leaders."
If you're going to hang banners in your home gym, then you need to make
some NCAA appearances and win some conference titles at the very least.
According to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune:
Carmody's defenders point to his school-record 20 wins last
season and back-to-back NIT bids. He runs a clean program. His .471
winning percentage tops those of predecessors Kevin O'Neill (.349), Ricky Byrdsong (.304), Bill Foster (.277) and Rich Falk (.360).
Low expectations can last for only so long.
And Carmody is a decent Xs and Os guy, with a fine knowledge of the
Princeton offense, but he'll never win any major recruiting battles over
any players that can make a major difference. And in last night's win over
Iowa he committed the same mistakes we saw versus Michigan State, and
in numerous other close games in recent years. I'm talking about the
sins of empty, useless possessions and bad clock management in crunch
time. With under a minute to go, and NU leading by three, they committed
a shot clock violation on a very key possession.
His gaffes are the main reason this team has choked away so many potential signature wins these past three years.
"Lake the Posts" in an article entitled "Time for a change" said this:
I think Jim Phillips has the chance to offer a new coach an
actually enviable task. You have an NIT level team coming back in
2011-2012. How many new coaches at BCS level schools get to walk in
when the program isn't in full rebuild mode? I realize the sell job at
NU is a tough one, despite what we may tell ourselves. However, the
combination of NU's imminent facility overhaul combined with the
actual players on the floor are a pretty interesting selling point.
Heck, I'd even keep Kevin Coble's cell phone handy as who knows what
he'd think if a new coach was coming to town (not sure of eligibility
rules - but can you imagine?).
Exactly. NU will lose a lot in the graduation of Juice Thompson, a
four year starter at point guard, but they'll be more respectable than
your usual program in transition. But the Coble incident is what hurts
Carmody the most.
Players who have a chance to become the school's all-time leading
scorer do not leave before their time is through. They simply should
never forgo a year of eligibility. Can you imagine a player at Illinois
with a realistic shot of ending up among the top two or three in
all-time program history actually leaving an entire year of eligibility
on the table? (Unless of course, they were doing it to jump to the NBA)
Now part of that might be Carmody's fault, but most of it is likely
Coble's. Yes, he completed his degree, but clearly he had no heart at
all for college basketball. The fact that Coble quit, instead of
looking to transfer means that more of the problem may have been with
him than with Northwestern. But that's exactly what it is so alarming
about the Bill Carmody regime.
His most talented and decorated player was someone who didn't
actually care to be there. In big time college basketball programs,
players like Coble, who aren't really interested in playing are not
depended upon. They are either marginalized or not even recruited at
And prime time college coaches know how to make sure situations like that never happen.
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
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