Thursday, February 24, 2011

Northwestern’s Tournament Hopes Vanish, Does Bill Carmody Need to Vanish With Them?

I’ve kind of been regarded as the positive Northwestern basketball blog. Obviously, Fire Bill Carmody has been geared towards, well, having Northwestern fire Bill Carmody and Lake the Posts has made it clear he is not fan of Bill Carmody either. I’ve been frustrated at times with Carmody, but I’ve been more supportive than not because I really thought he was making steady gains. Some frustrated NU fans might have called that being content with being mediocre, but I was willing to take steady progress. After all, I’ve seen teams fail to even ever be competitive. Bill Carmody has made NU more competitive overall, but you can’t be a head coach in the Big Ten and beat Penn State less than 10% of the time over a five year span. This 15-12 team might be the best they’ve ever had! Let me make this clear, Northwestern has now beat Penn State just once in their last eleven meetings (and that was because Craig Moore threw in a miracle shot from about 40-feet) and the vast majority of the losses have been in embarrassing fashion. Penn State’s seniors have NEVER lost to Northwestern and they haven’t really ever been all that challenged by NU. NU also hasn’t won at Penn State in almost a decade, but why add to our collective misery by bringing that up.

Let me make it clear here, I’m not saying it’s time for a change just because NU lost to Penn State, and I never thought I’d say this at all, but it’s time for NU to make a change in their head men’s basketball coaching position. It’s time for a change because this latest loss to Penn State convinces me that we’ve maxed out on progress. Remember, I’m content with steady progress and small gains. One major goal I had for progress this year was to beat Penn State. As stupid as that sounds, I really thought it would be a clear piece of evidence that NU was moving forward. Beating them tonight would have been huge because it not only would have been that clear evidence of progress, but it would have knocked PSU off the tourney bubble and pretty much evened them with NU in terms of where they sat postseason wise. Mostly, though, it would have shown that Northwestern had overcome another hurdle in their quest to make the NCAA Tournament. Instead, we got more of the same.

If NU gets one more Big Ten win they will have the same total as they got last season (7), but 4 of NU’s 6 current Big Ten wins are over Indiana and Iowa who are the only two teams below NU standings-wise. A potential 7th would probably have to come over Minnesota who has lost 6 of their last 7 (but did beat NU) because the ‘Cats probably aren’t winning at Wisconsin who is 151-11 at the Khol Center under Bo Ryan. As much as I say I’m all for simple progress, I’m not sure that is steady progress because last year’s 7 wins featured victories over better teams.

Let me also answer the questions, would I change my tune on Bill Carmody if NU upset Wisconsin? As someone who up until today was pretty content with Carmody as the coach, I guess I might swing back the other way, but NU almost upset Ohio State this year and even if NU had beat the Buckeyes getting our butts kicked by Penn State twice again this year might have still sent me over the edge. Seriously, beating Penn State less than 10% of the time! How is that possible? Well, let’s look at tonight…

Northwestern scored just four point in the game’s first eight minutes and basically came out looking as if they had no interest in playing. Penn State on the other hand looked like they were playing their most important game of the season—which they were—but so was Northwestern and by watching NU you couldn’t tell. Instead, it looked more like they were a 1-14 team playing out the end of the season. To say NU was as flat as a pancake would be inaccurate because pancakes have some height. NU was flat as the flattest tabletop you’ve ever seen. Early in the game it was turnovers that really hurt NU. Yes, they missed a lot of shots, but not even getting shots hurt NU even more. The game started with Juice Thompson getting Luka a great shot and Luka let the ball go through his hands. It pretty much set the tone for the day. Now, let’s be clear, the fact Luka has no hands and Drew Crawford once again pulled Harry Houdini and disappeared isn’t really all the fault of their coach, but clearly they aren’t responding to whatever methods of motivation they’re getting to try and make them successful and, sadly, if at some point the players don’t come around the coach gets held responsible.

Another problem was it took until a JerShon Cobb three late in the second half for someone other than Juice Thompson, John Shurna, Luka Mirkovic, or Drew Crawford to score for NU. Crawford only had two points at half and despite the fact he seemed to be able to get to the basket whenever he wanted, he seemed to be content to miss threes for far too long. Of course, everyone except Juice Thompson decided to miss threes tonight. Alex Marcotullio scored 0 and NU’s bench overall had zero. Davide Curletti hasn’t scored in almost two weeks.

NU’s defense again was pretty bad as Penn State’s guards made a number of way-to-easy entry passes which resulted in layups. NU did an okay job on the glass, but it wasn’t enough to keep Penn State from the some critical offensive rebounds.

I don’t know what else to say. This sucked. It was just like twice last year where NU played big games vs Penn State and Penn State looked like the only Division 1 team on the floor. It was just like two weeks ago when the same thing happened.

This whole situation sucks because I really don’t want to see Bill Carmody get fired, but seriously, how can Jim Phillips think it’s a good idea to retain him? Anybody with basic logic and a seat at or television tuned to tonight’s game would have to tell you it’s time to make a change. NU has had a shot to make a move towards the tournament four times this season. When they hosted Wisconsin (result: NU gets creamed), when they traveled to Michigan and Penn State (result: bad start resulted in loss, Penn State hammered NU), and tonight (result: bad start results in Penn State hammering NU). This failure to show up in big games isn’t new to this year either. It’s happened in other huge games like the 2009 game at Ohio State where NU was truly playing for an NCAA-berth. They day NU started poorly, came back, but the poor start put NU in the hole that prevented the ‘Cats from getting the win. Maybe these slow starts are simply because NU’s players are no good, but I see evidence that tells me that’s not the case.

Northwestern will probably beat Wisconsin on Sunday (let’s remember I said this) and that win will probably save Bill Carmody’s job. That’ll be good for Carmody and his family and in the real world that’s good because I don’t want to root for anybody to lose their source of income, but the sad part is that even as momentous as that will be, it won’t get NU into the Big Dance because they lost every other showcase game they had this season and that's not good. Not good at all.


Herman said...

I suppose an argument for keeping Carmody is that progress isn't always linear. We've established a baseline of success. This really is the first team in a long time to have such weight of expectations on it. Yeah, there were expectations last year, but not to the degree of this year.

Juice has played his heart out, Shurna had what looked to be a promising season set back by a number of injuries. Cobb has shown flashes of brilliance but also made freshman mistakes. Marcotullio has improved from being a non-factor during conference play last year to being a spark off the bench for many games this season. Crawford has remained streaky, and Mirkovic has improved in some areas and not so much in others.

We're all extremely disappointed this season hasn't turned out as we hoped. I guess I'd say that the pieces are still there for a breakthrough next year. Juice will be a huge loss, but we still have a good core returning. I think it's too early to say whether progress has truly stalled or whether this season is a speed bump on the way to the promised land.

I realize that fans are tired of the "maybe next year" mantra that we've had to endure, especially after 11 seasons of Carmody. I can respect the opinion of those who think it's time to change direction. I, myself, am not 100% sold on that yet, and I think we're still establishing our competitive footing after years of futility. I'm not ready to say that our progress is halted under Carmody.

Bob Dettman said...

My issue has been and will continue to be that we have no one to replace BC with. Moreover, we still have the issue of facilities and there is no indication from NU administration that this is even an issue on the table. It is really important to know that there is a coach out there that would be better than BC. The AD could put out feelers to see if that person was interested and then fire BC. A couple of years ago I thought Mike Montgomery would be a great coach at NU, but we did not grab him when he was available. We do not need an unproven entity, we need a coach who has been out there and needs a new home.