Northwestern basketball season review; early look to ’14-15

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northwestern-basketball

Celebrate the triumphs Northwestern basketball had this season. Embrace the road victories in the league, a couple upsets here and there, and feel positive about the top 25 ranked recruiting class coming to Welsh-Ryan next year. In Chris Collins, you have a coach that exudes passion, energy and top notch PR skills. However, at the same time, we must not forget all that Bill Carmody accomplished. He broke the school record for wins; three times. He brought them more than half of the school’s postseason appearances and the Wildcats first two 20-win seasons.

The reason I bring up the past is because the local media as a whole did a poor job covering Northwestern basketball this past season. I can’t single anybody out because there’s just so much blame to go around. We start our 2013-14 Northwestern basketball recap, leading into our 2014-15 Northwestern basketball preview on this main point because we have to.

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Perception becomes reality.

The way NU is coddled and misreported by the local media is troublesome. It completely throws expectations way out of whack. It’s way too early to truly evaluate Chris Collins as a coach; positively or negatively. Yet I saw one idiot tweet that he deserved Big Ten Coach of the Year! At a time when Northwestern basketball was 3-5 in conference! And I bring up Carmody because there seems to be a big misunderstanding of what the state of the program was when Collins inherited it. That’s 100% the fault of the media for not doing their homework and not reading their basic recent history.

bill carmody-northwestern-basketball

If these journalists knew where we were coming from, they’d see where we are now. And they wouldn’t have over-hyped the hot stretch that NU had in mid-season.

Although it’s easy to understand why the media did that.

Local media people were bored/desperate for a college basketball storyline in January through February, so they over-hyped a 5-2 stretch in conference play and acted as if Chris Collins had gotten Northwestern basketball to the Elite 8.

I get it. Illinois was in a brutal 1-10 stretch in the midst of their worst season since 1999. DePaul is a laughable train wreck under Oliver Purnell. Regarding the mid-major and low-major teams in Chicago, well no one hardly even acknowledges their existence. So Northwestern basketball getting to a 5-5 record in the Big Ten had to be our feel good story.

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But it really bothers me when the local media treats the program like a mid-major that had just moved up to Division 1. I don’t think it’s intended to be a direct shot at Carmody’s legacy, but it ends up coming off that way. I think the media is committing a sin of ignorance, not malice.

In 2014-15, let’s praise Northwestern basketball when they deserve it, and let’s call them out when they deserve it too. Like Rodney Dangerfield’s character in “Caddyshack,” “call if fair. call it fair!”

Instead, NU got ignored some of the time. Then overrated when they had a little winning streak, and now they get lauded with glorious praise for achieving even the most minimal accomplishments.

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Watching Twitter and the Big Ten Network over-congratulate Northwestern for beating last place Purdue and finish 11th out of 12th on the season’s final day was surreal. The Boilermakers had a RPI of 142. Watching people from respected local outlets believe that win over Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament was something special… A program turning point…..? You’re kidding me! The Hawkeyes had only one win in their last seven games. And that was at the expense of Purdue.

Chris Collins is under-manned, there’s no doubt about that. When JerShon Cobb went down for the season, he was relegated to dressing only eight scholarship players and playing just six! Six. That’s it! So he did a commendable job given what he had to work with. But 11th place is still 11th place. And for each great road win the Wildcats had, there was a bad home loss or two.

The national media misfired too. As Seth Davis made us wonder why he is as rich and as famous as he is. Given that he gave us “insight” like this: (h/t Basketball, by the Numbers)

 

I’m fine with commending Collins for his effort, and the wins he was able to scrape together, but social media is acting like he’s already broken new ground in the program. Celebrate and support Collins, but don’t forget/act like Carmody didn’t accomplish all the same things Collins did in ’13-’14. From 2009-12, Carmody was beating ranked teams all the time; yes on the road too!

“Act like you’ve been there before”  Chicago journalists. Carmody beat a #7 ranked Michigan State team; it was just two years ago.

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That said, let’s look ahead to 2014-15 Northwestern basketball.

Key losses: Drew Crawford – this one is huge. He had a great career and leaves as the school’s #2 all-time scorer. It’s going to take a lot to replace him. Crawford mattered so much to this program that Nebrasketball coach Tim Miles said upon visiting Evanston: “if he had stayed healthy, maybe Bill (Carmody) would have kept his job.”

Now I have no idea if that statement is true or not, but it’s a widely held belief among the Big Ten’s inner circle. Whether it’s true or not.

Collins on replacing Crawford next year:

“Obviously, we’ll be bringing in a lot of young players, and our returning guys are going to have to take over the leadership mantle that Drew was leaving, and it’s a big void.  He was an outstanding leader, and Drew and I, our arms were locked all year long.  And when a best player and a coach get a relationship like that, it forms a really strong unit.”

“At the end, you always know you’ve got a good group when the year is over and in the locker room everybody is emotional.  Because you’re either emotional because you’ve won and you’re at the top of what you’ve worked for, or you’re emotional because it’s over and you wanted to keep going on.  And everybody in our locker room was emotional because they love playing together.  They love Drew and what he brought.”

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Key returnees: Alex Olah– made huge strides this year, if he keeps it up, he could really be a NBA Draft pick down the line. JerShon Cobb, Sanjay Lumpkin, Tre Demps

Collins on Olah, Demps and Cobb:

“I mean, where Alex Olah is right now to where he was, there’s no more improved player in our conference, and he’s just a sophomore.
I think Tre Demps is a much improved player.  I think JerShon got a lot better as the year went on.  I thought we improved in a lot of ways, and I thought our guys kind of adjusted, and I adjusted to them.”

Key pieces coming in: Forwards Vic Law from St. Rita is a 4-star guy, ranked #66 nationally by ESPNU. Point guard Bryant McIntosh is also a 4-star. The other two signees, Gavin Skelly and Scottie Lindsey, are 3-stars.

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2014-15 Northwestern basketball Potential Depth Chart. (again this is very early)

PG Mcintosh/Cobb/Lindsey/Sobo

SG Cobb/Lindsey

Wing Demps/Abramson/Lumpkin

C Olah/Lieberman

F Law/Lumpkin/Abramson/Skelly

chris collins northwestern basketball

Finally, I’d like to say that Northwestern basketball is truly led by a man who’s very easy to root for. Chris Collins has a very media friendly personality and enthusiasm for the job that you’d like to see in a Big Ten basketball Coach. Maybe he will take the program to new heights. If/when he does, let’s not forget that the program was already trending upward before he arrived.

“I’ve learned a lot.  I mean, for me, you can feel ready for something, you can know you’re prepared for something, but there’s a lot of things you can only learn by going through them and going through your own experiences.  I’m really proud of the year we had.  It was a fun group of guys.  I thought we maximized who we were” Chris Collins told the media after the Northwestern basketball season ended.

“Michigan State is really good, and as you guys know, our gas tank was on E, and we tried to do what we could, it just wasn’t there.
I appreciate you guys (the media).  I know we’re done.  Appreciate you guys covering us this year, and look forward to a really bright future for our program.  Thank you.”

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on multiple news talk radio stations. The former NBC Chicago and Washington Times contributor has also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows The Sports Bank on Twitter (@paulmbanks) you should too

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