Northwestern will Make the Tourney this Year, I mean it this time


bill carmody

“Wait till next year” has become a seriously overused cliche in Chicago sports, but now it applies to teams other than the Cubs. You can say it about Northwestern, and their college football bowl win drought (1949). The past two years, the Cats were just an errant kick away from ending that streak.

In college basketball, there’s another streak alive and well. The Cats are the only power conference team never to have made the NCAA tournament. However, much like in football they have come especially close the past two years.

’08-’09 saw some program signature wins: at eventual national runner-up Michigan State and Purdue, a top 15 team. Last year saw a school record for wins, the only 20 victory season in school history, and the first national ranking in 40 years.

Ultimately though, they fell well short of the NCAA goal both times.

By Paul M. Banks

However, it’s a new year and the field has expanded to 68, increasing tournament chances for a team returning most of their nucleus from a group that posted a school record for victories over a two year period. Sure, star player Kevin Coble mysteriously decided not to return for his final season, but do you believe in the Ewing Theory? Here’s more on that.

And technically, NU already experienced this. They posted a school record for wins without Coble, and this new team lost very little outside of him and senior guard Jeremy Nash from last season. The Cats also add top 100 recruit JerShon Cobb to the mix.

Really, this team should finish sixth in the Big Ten, and probably no lower than seventh. And if the Big Ten is as good a conference as it’s being made out to be, then six or seven teams should easily get into the big dance.

As with most teams, health and depth will be the number one concern, and determinant of their postseason destiny.  After their blowout exhibition win over Robert Morris, I asked NU Coach Bill Carmody how deep his team will roll this season.

“Probably nine, one of every position or almost one or every position. Ryan’s in there too. If he can come around, he really helps because he’s so versatile on the court and knows what to do. He’s not much of a scorer but I think we have guys that can put the ball in the basket. So if he’s sometimes a facilitator, he’s okay,” Carmody said.

Ryan’s an important name in Wildcat Alley; being on the name of the Arena and the football stadium, but it also matters on the court. Jeff Ryan, a senior wing from Glenview who went down for the season with a leg injury in the opening win over Northern Illinois, now returns. His presence will help, especially at the one where he’ll take up some reserve minutes.

Finally, I believe they’ll make it because I trust the opinion of TSB’s David Kay, a man who knows college basketball like Paris Hilton knows being a moronic, spoiled slut. Kay has gone and actually created in-depth previews of the top 99 teams (from all conferences, including mid-majors) in the nation. Yes, a 99 in 99 days. The Seattle Times cited his Washington Huskies preview just yesterday.

I told you he was HARD CORE in his knowledge.

He ranks NU #53, as you can see here. Safely inside the bubble. See you in March!

NU begins their season Nov. 12th at NIU.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter, Yardbarker Network, and Fox

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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