Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NU’s Full Schedule Released: What’s the Problem(s)?

Northwestern released the full basketball schedule today. It features 29 total games (2 less than last year) and only 1 or 2 games in the non-conference schedule against BCS conference opposition. Based on last season the best team NU will face is Georgia Tech who NU plays in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. However, this year’s Georgia Tech team will be lacking a trio of key players from last year’s squad. In point of fact, Georgia Tech might still be NU’s toughest opponent, but I’m actually more worried having to start the season on the road at Northern Illinois. It just seems the type of game Northwestern could lose. Perhaps that’s a negative attitude, but it’s brought on by years of Northwestern fandom. Bottom line, though, while NU’s non-conference opponents aren’t the basketball equivalent of the 1927 Yankees (some are more like 1962 Mets) NU has a great chance to go 11-0 in non-conference play. Of course, NU was 10-2 to start last season and failed to do enough in the Big Ten to make the tournament. NU was 9-0 in 93-94 and ended up in the NIT that year as well. Hopefully, history doesn’t repeat itself this season.

Reading the message boards a number of fans are upset at the schedule. I don’t love it either, but I am a little frustrated at the number of people who simply can’t wait to place blame regarding anything related to NU basketball. Some will say I’m being too kind or that I’m too far in the pro-Bill Carmody camp, but I think anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’ve had no problem calling out Carmody for what I’ve seen as poor in game decisions. However, I do have a problem calling out Carmody, Jim Phillips, or anyone else for something I can’t judge. I can go to a game or watch it on TV and say what I would have do in the same situation the coach faces. We as fans have no idea what went on behind closed doors when Carmody and Phillips tried to setup this schedule. For all we know NU called Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA to try and setup games but were turned down by all four. That might not be the case, but we really don’t know. It could be. I’d think that Carmody would have preferred a more competitive schedule, but it is a pretty well known fact that coaches hate playing Princeton Offense teams because they have to alter practice for a couple days before the game. Coaches hate altering practice for even five minutes, if they have to alter it for five days they’re on the verge of panic.

Another problem besides NU running the Princeton Offense is that NU is actually decent enough they can beat you on your home court, but you don’t get anything back for beating them. Say NU went to Kansas and Kansas beat NU 101-64, nobody would be surprised. People would say that’s what Kansas should have done. Now, say NU goes to Kansas and NU wins 70-68. People will want Bill Self fired. Face it, NU gets no respect. All the ‘Cats are to good teams is a game that they should win and that if they don’t might cause the coach to be seeking other employment (see: Steve Alford).

A third problem for NU in scheduling is NU isn’t really a draw on the road. Nobody is going to show up just to see Northwestern. Therefore, some teams probably don’t want NU for a home and home, but as a Big Ten team NU can’t except going someplace 2-for-1 nor can they take a buyout game. Some of you will say NU should do so, when rumors existed Notre Dame offered NU a 2-for-1 in football a few years back I said the same thing, but really if NU wants to be a big time Big Ten program they can’t take the same deal teams give San Diego State or Air Force.

Sometime in the future I’ll really look at what this schedule means, but I think what it means is that NU needs to somehow rack about 21 wins before the Big Ten Tournament in order to make the Big Dance. A 21-8 record should be enough with the strength of this year’s Big Ten.

9 comments: said...

It's disappointing and unfortunate, but the fact is we're a very unattractive team to sign up. Even in terms of prospective RPI. If the other team beats us, they may not gain much. But a loss could really hurt.

macarthur31 said...

Great post.

I've found the 'Cat boards not to be the place for sober analysis -- that's where the passionate fans are. And it seems like the majority of them are restless with Carmody. Italy trip aside, we've still got a bit of the hangover from Coble's departure, we've missed on recruiting bigs.

There's a bit of Carmody Derangement Syndrome out there. It seems like whenever anything doesn't go our way, it's framed as a failing of Carmody's: he can't recruit, he has negative body language, etc. There are folks that dog him out as effete cause he enjoys red wine, even though the dude worked construction before joining Carrill's staff at Princeton.

Not to say that he's blameless, or that there are real things that need to be addressed (like our sluggish starts on the road in conference games, etc), but today was another example of the anti-Carmody faction continuing to view things with that same framework -- "Carmody can't schedule" when there could be a myriad of reasons that could explain it.

dc said...

You got me thinking about something. And I will qualify what I'm about to say with the fact that I have no idea what goes into scheduling and this is probably impossible. But still, I think it'd be cool.

We oughtta be able to schedule home and home with Duke, right? First we go to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Then, next year they come to Chicago and we play at the United Center. Duke does the big city neutral site thing every year - they go to New York to play some big team (like Texas a few years ago) at Madison Square Garden every year, plus Krzyzewski is from Chicago, so maybe it's not really that much of a stretch that this would interest them? It could be like what they're doing with the NU - U of I Wrigley game. Of course, there's already the ACC-Big Ten Challenge which probably precludes/preempts such a possible game.

I'm merely someone with zero real world perspective or experience thinking out loud!

Chad said...

Duke, UCLA, Kansas are not the problem.....the problem is that it appears we aren't willing to do a home and home with some of the mid-majors/smaller-school Tourney teams (Northern Iowa, Saint Mary's, Gonzaga, Temple, Xavier, Utah State) that would boost our RPI. THOSE are the teams that we need to be targeting, as both teams would benefit -- those schools by scheduling against a BCS conference team and having the chance for an upset, us with getting a game that might be televised plus a better RPI.

KramerOG said...

I think Phillips hasn't really turned his attention to basketball scheduling, yet. I'm guessing he has been busy with Wrigley Field, hiring Mike Polisky, Big Ten expansion, etc. Hopefully, next year he'll have had enough success with marketing football with a good marketing/sales team that he can focus more on the basketball schedule. I believe next year we'll see a much more interesting schedule.

Question: will playing Nebraska hurt our RPI? Will we be playing them twice?

Here are some scheduling ideas:

We should be scheduling games with teams in conferences that have a team running the Princeton Offense. That way we can sell our game as preparation for playing that other team. Doesn't Oregon or Oregon State run the PO? Playing a team from the PAC-10 should raise the RPI.

Could we also schedule a game against another team running the PO? In the right hands, e.g. Phillips, I think that could really be marketed well.

matthew said...


How do you know that NU isn't targeting the schools you cite? Do you have actual information to the contrary? This is the problem: I haven't actually heard anything from anyone who knows anything about factual about NU's hoops scheduling process. Everyone is guessing; even you.

FWIW--I agree that the schedule sucks. I just can't blame anybody in particular without more information.

matthew said...

Here's a picture of college hoops scheduling. You can see that on Sept. 13, NU was looking for a home, guarantee game. Looks like they haven't filled the advertised date yet.

Loretta8 said...

@matthew: this article ( doesn't mention NU specifically, but it certainly gives the impression that the mid major teams mentioned would jump at the chance to play a home and home with a Big Ten team like Northwestern.

Loretta8 said...

and Ryan, I agree with you about the Northern Illinois road game, wouldn't be shocked to see NU lose that one.