Was yesterday’s loss to Illinois the worst loss ever suffered by Northwestern? A debate has begun on the Wildcatreport.com message boards. The issue seems to be whether last night’s debacle was worse than NU’s loss to DePaul in the 1983 NIT. Now, given that I was two weeks old when that 1983 NIT occurred I might not be the best person to make this comparison. I would love to hear from folks who watched both games and can make a clearer comparison. That said, I will do my best based on my research about 1983 and my sad observation from last night.
I’ve heard last night described as near carbon copy of the 1983 NIT game by some who were in attendance at both, but it seems to me there are a few notable differences about NU’s loss to the Blue Demons. First, the game was in the postseason. I think this is significant, especially since the NCAA tournament field was smaller in the early 1980s. To me, this means an NIT appearance was far more significant then than it is now. Also, some have said NU had a good chance to make it to the NIT finals if they got past DePaul. Losing such an opportunity has to be considered a huge blow to the program. In addition, on site reports from the Rosemont Horizon say that although like last night NU couldn’t get the ball across half court against DePaul, that was in large part because the officials let DePaul get away with hacking NU’s ball handlers. Finally, the last second shot to win for the Demons was a 35-foot miracle heave at the hoop. That’s a real tough way to lose.
Now, let’s look at last night’s horror show of a game. The significance of last night’s game was an NCAA tournament bid was potentially on the line. For a team that has never made the NCAAs, losing such a game is a big fraking loss. If the ‘Cats don’t pull out at least three more wins before the end of the regular season, this will be the game pointed to as a season changer. The game which cost NU the postseason. It might even be the game which eventually costs the coach his job. NU’s inability to get the ball past half court last night came as a result of poor play by veteran players. It seemed Craig Moore was replaced with the past version of himself who went into a shell when things went terrible his sophomore year. That last shot last night was pretty easy, even easier was the layup Kevin Coble allowed to bring Illinois within 1 point at 59-58. I know Coble had four fouls, but to be honest, there are a lot of times he looks like he couldn’t guard his lunch in a kindergarten classroom.
So, which loss was worse? Well, it might be a self-defense mechanism, because I don’t want to have seen the worst loss ever, but I’m going to say the 1983 NIT loss was worse. I think any loss which ends a team’s season is bad, and to end your season by blowing a big lead is even worse. Also, I think the fact Patterson launched up a 35-foot miracle shot makes it worse. How many people hit 35-footers at the buzzer? Not that many. I’m sure when that was the best shot DePaul could get at the buzzer most folks figured NU had survived. Not so.
This is of course just my point of view. I’d love to hear other thoughts. Do you think last night was worse? Was there another loss which was worse than both these? Leave a comment and let us know.