Sunday, January 23, 2011

Once Again NU Embarrassed in Key Game

Northwestern got creamed at home today by a team that should of lost to Indiana. Obviously NU didn’t shoot well overall and Drew Crawford was a non-factor, but the reason for the loss goes back to defense and rebounding. Good teams can make up for off shooting nights by playing defense and rebounding because those aren’t based on skill or luck. They’re just based on desire. Northwestern hasn’t been able to play very well on defense or rebound regularly for some time now. I like Bill Carmody as a person and think offensively he is a good coach, but something needs to be done about his teams’ defense (or lack of it) I don’t think the replacement of an assistant coach with someone with more of a background in teaching man-to-man defense would be unwarranted. Let’s face it no matter how many fans can’t deal with the fact the truth is Carmody himself is sticking around for two more years. No way exists that Northwestern is going to fork over the money to pay two men’s basketball head coaches at once (unless Pat Ryan or the professor who invented lyrica decides he wants Carmody canned and gives Jim Phillips the money to payoff Bill for two years), so it’s time to get over the desire to see Carmody axed and start functioning in reality when looking for ways to fix Northwestern’s basketball problems for the next two seasons. I see brining in someone who can coach defense as an option that fits both the realistic head coaching situation and NU’s desire to save cash.

This game was over from the moment Wisconsin got a 22-16 lead and NU couldn’t answer because they’re defense was poor that no doubt existed that Wisconsin was going to keep scoring the entire game. I personally would have liked to grab four friends and play against NU today. I think we could have at least put up 50. I don’t really have anything good to say about how Northwestern played or coached. They just seemed to melt under the pressure of the big game. That’s sadly become NU’s rep in football and men’s basketball and it sure as hell sucks as fan. And yes I know that’s a selfish statement because the players are doing their best, but it still is true. For whatever reason Northwestern isn’t a team that’s had a lot of mental toughness over the years and sadly if you aren’t very physically talented or tough you don’t win unless you’re mentally tough.

I don’t know why the players don’t take more offense at the fact everybody comments on their inability to win when it matters and then try to do something to prove the critics wrong, but every big game they wilt like flowers without water in the desert heat. The good news is this isn’t NU’s last chance to do something significant win wise, but it was actually (to me) their easiest. Winning on the road is tough and Illinois and Ohio State are better teams than Wisconsin.

I’ll let others blogs and media outlets breakdown the game more precisely from a basketball game plan point of view, but I’m really not sure what there is to breakdown other than to say NU played bad defense and didn’t shoot well enough to make up for that fact and once again Drew Crawford made Harry Houdini look like a light weight with his ability to disappear. I was impressed with Wisconsin on the glass, but they did have a rather significant height advantage so maybe that’s not as remarkable as one might think.

Bottom line, the win over Michigan this week was nice and NU still hasn’t lost to any bad teams and even if they lose their next three in a row that’ll remain true. However, as a fan I’m struggling a little bit because it seems like Northwestern basketball will always crush your positive expectations and I’m a bit of an optimist (as I think most NU fans are), so mine (ours) get crushed a lot. I know even if I realistically predict losses in game previews that I brainwash myself into thinking that NU will every game before it tips. I have to say, though, that at this point I’m a little more frustrated than after previous bad losses just based on NU’s total lack of positive effort today in what the whole world would agree was a big game played at home. It NU wasn’t ready to play. That’s been the case far too often over the past few years when things really mattered and it is starting ware thin on many Northwestern fans. You can only get yourself worked up and excited for something and that watch it fall flat so many times before you realize you’re doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, which just happens to be the definition of insanity (and you probably do need to be a little insane to cheer for Northwestern year after year in men’s hoops). How crazy am I? I actually still think NU will beat Illinois at home (though I’m not so sure about at Minnesota or Ohio State). Of course, home court advantage I’m afraid might not be a factor for the Ohio State and Illinois games which could really hurt NU. I suspect Welsh-Ryan will have many visitors and very few NU students for those contests after today and while I hate to excuse fair-weather fans, I’m not sure I can really blame them at this point. Hopefully, they’ll have reason to get excited after Wednesday and the OSU game (which is on ESPN2) will have a decent crowd of purple. That would be nice, of course it would also be nice if not only the fans but the team showed up as well.

We’re now almost half way through the Big Ten season, what does everyone else think about NU’s future prospects at this point?


rhett said...

I started watching at 22-16. Blame me.

I couldn't believe Carmody stuck with the 131 for so long in the first half, while the game was still in reach. Wisconsin has the 344th highest tempo of the 345 D-1 teams. They commit the 345th most turnovers... I know it disengaged Leuer and playing man against him would open up a different can of worms, but still. Open 3 after open 3.

macarthur31 said...

Carmody probably went with the 1-3-1 in hoping that it would force tempo and turnovers. That's blind hope, but it was better than the alternative. If we went switching man on them, they'd just carve us down until they got the matchup they wanted.

Today wasn't an elimination game. Let's flush it and move on.

Today was tough. Flush it and move on.

Glenn said...

It wasn't an "elimination game" per se, but I sure thought they needed it.

There are 10 games left this year.

Must-win (5): at MICH, at PSU, vs. IOWA, at IND, vs PSU

Should/could win (2): vs IL, vs MINN

Doubtful (3): at MINN, vs OSU, at WIS

For an NCAA tournament bid, I figure they need all of the games in the first two categories, and probably one of the games in the last category (11 Big Ten wins).

Ryan said...

I think Glenn's breakdown is about right. The good news is that NU has the ability to get hot enough from three to beat anybody, but they haven't yet shown they can do so against the better teams (likely because the better teams play better defense). Therefore, NU looks good vs Michigan, Iowa, and Indiana because they play D like NU does. I don't see NU getting much better on defense, so the question is can NU take advantage of the fact that Illinois sometimes slacks off on defense or catch Minnesota on a night when they don't bring their "A" game.

rhett said...

That sounds about right. One thing in NU's favor is the fact they actually play longer (ie, higher tempo) games than usual. Longer the game, more likely the better team wins. In past years I've just assumed there would be at least one atrocious loss toward the end of Big Ten season. This year I'm not so sure, especially because NU has a killer offense (that looks even better against the weak teams, yeah.) Although Penn State looks like a much tougher out than usual...

Unknown said...

The fact is that the team came out lifeless, and showed no toughness or effort. And, yet, Carmody just stood and watched. He may be known as an offensive wizard, but he's a terrible game coach. From staying in defenses in which we don't match up well (e.g. Illinois carved up the 1-3-1 last year and did it again in game #1), to not having our center even face the basket or curl to the hoop JUST ONCE to keep the defense honest, to not running one play to take advantage of Drew Crawford's ability to slash to the hoop, etc. I'm really torn since he's gotten us this far but things are falling apart.