At the half I really thought Northwestern still a chance in this game. Yes, they’d only scored 15 points, but they’d played enough defense to make me believe that if they came out like they in the second half against Michigan on offense, but played defense they would win. However, NU continued to struggle on offense and while they still played good defense (how many other games would NU have won if they just gave up 61?!), scoring just 44 points isn’t going to get you many wins.
I know a lot of people will put this on the coaching staff (and I’ll have some general thoughts on them later), but I don’t think the game plan NU used toady was that bad—in fact it was really pretty good. They got a lot of open shots they simply missed (missing 15 threes in a row is nearly impossible for a D1 team, but NU managed to do it today) and defensively I have to believe credit for that improved effort goes to an increased emphasis on defense in practice since the loss at Michigan.
The bottom line today is Northwestern simply didn’t take advantage of a myriad of chances they did have. NU missed not only a number of open threes, but they also missed a number of layups of mid-range shots. Luka Mirkovic and Davide Curletti are much too weak in how they attempt shots. I’ve lost count of the number of times they’ve had shots blocked at point blank range because they try to flip in a layup form their hip instead of powering up a shot with their shoulder to the rim. I have to say I really struggle with the idea that Ivan Peljusic could be any worse.
Northwestern also has a number of players who are steak shooters and they were all on bad streaks today. Drew Crawford, Juice Thompson, and John Shurna can all get hot at times, but they were all ice cold today even when open. Shurna (though he has moments) still looks very hurt. I don’t think it is worth sitting him at this point because that ship has probably sailed. Now if you tried to sit Shurna for three weeks he wouldn’t be back until the Big Ten Tournament and having missed that much practice would probably leave him just as off with his shot as he is now. In retrospect I wonder if NU wishes Shurna would have just sat the first three weeks of the Big Ten season. I don’t know, but it’s hard to believe NU could be any worse off than they are now whether Shurna played or not.
Northwestern now sits at 4-9 in the Big Ten and has a real good chance to finish 10th or 11th in the Big Ten this year. I don’t think this loss is on the coaching staff because the players missed so many good looks and the defense was good, but I’m starting to think Jim Phillips needs to consider making a coaching change if Bill Carmody really has only two more years on his contract. I’m not saying Carmody should go at this point (and I’ve never been a fan of in-season changes anyway), but if Carmody’s contract really is up after next year Phillips is in tough spot. He (and Northwestern as whole) would look idiotic to even give Carmody a one year extension if he finishes in the bottom two in the Big Ten, especially if NU continues to look bad in games which are allegedly big games (if NU rallies it’s obviously a different story). It’s a tough position to be in because Carmody has done a lot for NU and isn’t a bad coach, but the problem is you also have a small fan base that rapidly losing interest. Look at NU’s message boards or the number of comments on this blog recently, with each loss less and less people care about NU hoops. The only place people seem to talk about NU hoops a lot is in the comments section of Lake the Posts and that’s been more negative banter than positive.
Honestly, I’m glad I’m not Jim Phillips because I don’t know what I’d do. I will say that if things don't get better vs Iowa and Indiana and it looks like the team quit then I'd probably make a change. So is Carmody coaching for his job vs Indiana and Iowa? Maybe. I guess good news for him is that if he is it's Indiana and Iowa he's playing, though, I'm sure people in Bloomington and Iowa City are thinking the good news in those games is that they're playing Northwestern.