Thursday, February 26, 2009

Contemplating Postseason Possibilities

Indiana can tug on John Shurna's jersey all they want, but it looks as if even that won't hold the Wildcats back from a postseason bid.

With their 15th win of the season last night Northwestern has assured themselves of at least a .500 record. With a win in any of their remaining games the Wildcats will assure themselves of their second above .500 season under Head Coach Bill Carmody. Taking these facts into account, Northwestern is poised to make their first postseason appearance since 1999. There are four postseason tournaments which Northwestern could make this season, below is a breakdown of those possibilities.

NCAA Tournament: It is a long shot for Northwestern to make their first ever NCAA tournament trip, but it is still possible. Obviously the best way for Northwestern to make the Big Dance is to win the Big Ten Tournament. This is possible considering Northwestern has played all 10 conference opponents well at least once. The only negative is that if the Big Ten Tournament started today NU would play Michigan, the only team to win two against the Wildcats this year. Of course, both games were close and it is hard to beat a team three times. Also, it might be a bit early to start assume Big Ten Tournament matchups at this point. NU can make the NCAAs without winning the Big Ten Tournament. However, they have to win at least two of their remaining regular season games and get to the Big Ten Tournament final. That would give NU 20 total wins and I think based on the number of quality wins NU would have at that point it would put them squarely on the bubble. The best way for NU to break the non-NCAA streak, though, remains winning the Big Ten Tournament.

NIT: The NIT is Northwestern’s most likely destination at this point. Projections from the bracket project and NIT-ology have the Wildcats in the NIT as a 6 seed. However, the bracket project notes that NU’s NIT bid could be endangered because of the requirement the NIT take all conference winners who do not make the NCAA tournament. How can Coach Carmody avoid his second NIT snub, get to 18 wins. An 18-win season for NU, which will include several good wins, should get NU solidly into the NIT somewhere around a 5 or 6 seed. Unfortunately, unless NU goes on a major run, it looks as if NU will not be hosting a first round home game. However, since the NIT now seeds, it is possible the Wildcats could get a home game if some first round upsets occur. If NU gets to 19 of 20 wins, they should move into the top half of the NIT bracket, but if NU has 20 wins, I’m going to be hoping for something more than a 1 or 2 seed in the NIT.

CBI: The CBI is in its second year of existence. It features a three game series for its final which makes it unique among college postseason events. The interesting thing about the CBI is that teams who host home games most guarantee the tournament a $50,000 payout. Given Northwestern’s attendance issues, the Wildcats probably would not get a home game in this event even if they were invited. One positive, though, is if you keep winning the CBI does allow a team to make more money as the higher seed always plays at home. As a result, last year’s CBI champ, Tulsa, actually made more money for their program than the NIT champ, Ohio State. Of course, Ohio State got play games on ESPN and in Madison Square Garden. As far as recruiting, which is the life-blood of college sports, that makes a big difference. This year the CBI will be on HDNet, but that isn’t ESPN. If Northwestern wins only two more games and finishes with 17 wins, they will be solidly on the NIT bubble and might drop to the CBI.

CIT: A lot of people have made fun of the CIT, but it seems to me the people who are running this tournament are really trying to do things right. I hope over the next few years this tournament starts to grow. Right now, the CIT committee has to wait until both the CBI and NIT pick teams which will likely mean their contestants will be made up of small schools with good records and big schools who are a game or two above .500. Why do I like the CIT? First, the selection committee is made up of coaches. This should eliminate some of the money-first selection ideals which it seems might come from the CBI and used to come from the NIT. Also, the higher seeds get home games the whole way. This is something the CBI started last year and CIT is doing this season. It makes sense. It rewards teams for success and allows the great atmosphere of college basketball to come into play. I like this a lot better than playing in NBA arenas which almost eliminate the noise factor advantage which you get in college arena when the student section has worked themselves into a frenzy. All that said, Northwestern doesn’t want to go to the CIT. Although I think it has potential to be a great event, and personally I’ll enjoy a post season appearance wherever it is, the CIT is at this point the low tournament on the totem poll. Unless NU only gets one more win and finishes 16-14, they should be able to make the NIT as at least a 7-seed. A positive for Northwestern if they do end up in the CIT is that the CIT is the tournament in which the Wildcats are most likely to play a home game.


John said...

I thought the CIT wasn't going to wait for the CBI to pick its teams? From what I read it seems like a free-for-all after the NIT selections. Still, I'd like to see Northwestern end up in the NIT at least.

Ryan said...

The last I read was the CBI and NIT got to pick before the CIT, but it seems as if this whole thing is kind of unclear as to who gets to pick what and when. Bottom line, though, I agree with you. NU is best off in the NIT at least. I just hope they win a couple more games so they aren't a low seed.

jerry said...

This is a great post. I just had one of the ‘Doh!’ moments and ran back to correct my own site before publishing my comment. You see my own comment form did not match what I’m about to advice. I get less comment than you, so never noticed any problem. I’ve changed it now anyway so here goes.

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