So I’ve been thinking about how NU’s basketball and football teams can be successful or more successful than they are. After all, let’s not discount what’s been done thus far. Football is 5-2 and both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are coming off of postseason appearances. However, I think we can all agree that while those successes are very nice, we can expect more success from those programs in the future. Here are four keys to that success.
1) Win at Home – It’s not that NU is 5-2 that has football fans upset. It’s that NU is 2-2 at home. Good Big Ten (and Big Time) teams win games at home. NU is freakishly good football wise on the road (10-3 in last 13), but if you’re that good on the road you should put up 10 or 11 win seasons not 8 win seasons. The good news is NU’s basketball teams are actually better at home, but Coach Carmody’s guys still ripped out fans hearts last year when they gave away a game to Wisconsin and failed to beat Penn State at Welsh-Ryan.
2) Consistently Respond to Big Ten Challenges – NU always seems to get some nice wins in conference play and has seemingly turned a corner in both sports regarding non-conference games, but they don’t consistently show up for Big Ten games. That’s bad. Look at football vs Purdue or basketball last year at Iowa or vs Penn State. Those are games in conference where NU was better than the opponent, but didn’t rise to meet the challenge the other team offered. Yes, NU you were better, but those teams decided they were still going to try to win and because they tried harder, they did.
3) Finish Games – Most obviously this comes up after two blown football leads, but men’s basketball had a serious problem finishing games two years ago and the problem resurfaced last year a couple times as well. When you’ve got a team down you can’t let them off the hook.
4) Expect to Win – This goes for fans as well. Good programs build expectations of success. While we as NU fans have higher expectations than fans of the ‘Cats 20 years ago, we still don’t expect to win all the time. Sadly, I think the players sometimes react the same way—especially basketball wise. I can think of a number of games last year against so called “better” teams that NU folded as soon as the lead got big for the other guys (see: Ohio State and Butler). It was almost as if when the ‘Cats came out and the game went bad they looked at each other the said, “see they’re just better.” They might be, but that doesn’t mean you have to stand around looking really impressed as Evan Turner uses you as fodder to improve his draft stock. NU did at least mount a comeback in the game at Wisconsin, but they should never have gotten down so much in the first place.