For the last four years, the performance of Northwestern basketball has made the media toy with the idea of the Wildcats making the NCAA Tournament. There will be no media speculation this year. An unbelievable rash of injuries have made them a shell of a team they once were, but they can still make the NIT with some signature wins. Their only shot at a tourney bid would be a miracle run through the Big Ten Tournament, where they will likely be seeded 9th-11th out of 12 teams. Chances are made even more poor when considering they’ve never even made it past the quarterfinals in the tourney’s 14 year history.
Like I said it’s been a really rough year for Northwestern basketball on the injury front. They’ve lost their best player in Drew Crawford, their best rebounder in Jared Swopshire and a potential big contributor in Sanjay Lumpkin all for the season. JerShon Cobb was lost for the year due to academic issues. The guys who are still here have been banged up too. Just ask the Alexs- Olah and Marcotullio. Northwestern basketball is now playing college basketball games often with just 7 scholarship players, and it showed versus the Illini and Badgers. There were more than a few airballs released Sunday night versus Illinois. They shot a putrid 19% from 3, 25% for the game versus Illinois. “There was just no flow to the offense,” Bill Carmody said after losing to Illinois.
In the first half, versus Wisconsin, they had a whopping four baskets and 12 points. They blew a chance to bolster their NIT resume by losing to the 19th ranked team. “We have a hard time putting the ball in the basket, our rebounding was anemic, I’m not sure of the answer,” Carmody said. “But you have to make shots.”
In Welsh-Ryan Arena, banners hang honoring each of the university’s sports. (Lacrosse is really really good by the way) The basketball banner reads “7 NIT appearances.” For most schools that would not be highlighted, it would be hidden back in the corner. The ‘Cats have also made 4 NITs in a row, meaning John Shurna, the program’s all time leading scorer went every year. It’s really bizarre to make 4 NITs in a row, usually you would literally “bubble up” one year, or just falter down a level to the CBI, CIT or worse, which appears to be happening in Evanston now. Staying at that same NIT level of just above mediocrity but not quite good for so long is strange.
So let’s look at their resume. 13-14, 4-10 in the Big Ten. RPI 117
Key wins: Illinois RPI 29, Minnesota RPI 15 Baylor RPI 55
Bad losses: did you watch the two Iowa games? I hope for your sake you didn’t. UIC RPI 118, Nebraska RPI 106, Stanford RPI 73
Therefore, they’ll have to win three of their last four, get a resume win over Ohio State and/or Michigan State, and for the love of God don’t lose to Penn State. If they can get above .500 overall, which might require a win or two in the Big Ten Tournament they could make the NIT. But it will likely require at least three more wins over nationally ranked teams.
And since that scenario doesn’t look likely, we will likely begin the “Should Bill Carmody stay or go” article season very soon. Look for that article relatively soon, as the season winds down and Carmody has been blown out at home five times already.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Fox Sports, MSN, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Chicago Now
A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.