It wasn't supposed to end this way for the Northwestern Wildcats. No, not like this, 14-19 ousted in their first round game of the Big Ten Tournament by the Iowa Hawkeyes 73-59. No NIT, CIT, or other acronym tourney awaits them. Certainly not the big one: NCAA, which has never seen the Wildcats in 70+ years of NU basketball.
After four straight NIT bids, maybe this could have been the year the Northwestern Wildcats "bubbled up" to the big dance. Instead the injury bug bit over and over again. And coach Bill Carmody was left with a shell of what he once had. The Northwestern Wildcats last won on Groundhog Day, and like the movie that bears the holiday's name, we've seen the same occurrences over and over and over again.
The Northwestern Wildcats kept "spotting" their opponents a lead to begin the game. As the Wildcats often found their opponents up by double digits before they've even scored. It happened versus Wisconsin, Penn State and again in the Big Ten Tourney.
This time NU's opposition had 11 points on the board before the Northwestern Wildcats broke through. The 'Cats made a game of it in the second half, often drawing the deficit down to less than double digits, but alas never broke through. The Northwestern Wildcats lost three times to the Hawkeyes this year by a combined 48 points.
The famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on February 2nd. Legend says if the groundhog doesn't see a shadow, winter will end early, and spring is just around the corner. Well it's certainly true of the weather, at least in Evanston. And Wildcats basketball never got warmer since then. There is something getting warmer though, the seat under coach Bill Carmody. Is this is last game ever leading NU?
It wasn't losing leading scorer Drew Crawford for the year that was the breaking point, it was the loss of Louisville transfer and leading rebounder Jared Swopshire that changed everything. They never won a game without him.
"Once Swop swapped went down, everything changed, we were playing all guards at that point," Carmody said at the post game presser.
Carmody on job speculation: "That's just the way it is." He said he and NU Athletic Director Jim Phillips will sit down and discuss the situation, like they do every year. No date has been set for the meeting, but Phillips was in attendance at this presser.
"Business as usual," Carmody remarked.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of visitors. He's an author who also contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker
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