There is a lot of blame to go around on this one, but as much as NU was just awful on offense to start this game the real facts are that this game was lost on defense. Minnesota was able to get whatever shots they wanted driving to the basket or passing the ball without much pressure from Northwestern and the result was a lot of Gopher points.
Northwestern still lacks the intensity needed on defense to be truly competitive in the Big Ten long term and they still don’t respond well when things go wrong. The most obvious example of this is Drew Crawford. Crawford has the ability to be a good player, but he tends to sulk around when things go bad and forces shots because he wants to score. Then on defense since he’s so upset he didn’t make a basket his athletic ability is negated as he’s too busy worrying about himself to actually guard anybody. I’d say Crawford and Luka Mirkovic are great examples of how lacking in mental toughness Northwestern’s basketball program is, but I don’t want anybody to think they’re the only examples. They just are the ones who show it the most with their body language as it changes 180 degrees based on if they’re playing well or not.
The other major issue is that it seems that for the most part NU is at a point where the only people who really want to shot the ball are Crawford, Shurna, and Marcotullio (who doesn’t even start). This makes defending NU very easy. At some point the rest of NU’s players need to be given the okay to take a shot. After all, as frustrated as Crawford’s out of control drives make me, I understand that he has not choice when three of his teammates pass up wide open looks.
The only good news about this loss is it’ll probably put a stop to any NCAA Tournament talk for Northwestern and it’s about time. This team is about as from being an NCAA Tournament team as five kids playing pick-up at the park. Actually, if those kids play defense and rebound they’re probably closer.
I expect Northwestern will win their next two games which are both at home brining their record to 4-5 in the Big Ten, but the fact is that along with not playing defense; not winning on the road also finishes NU off as far as NCAA Tournament hopes. I’m not going to get into what this means for the program’s coaching situation at this point, but obviously some people will say this game is evidence Bill Carmody needs to be let go. That’s all well and good, but the fact is we’ve seen this game probably at least 25 times before during Carmody’s tenure. Therefore, I find it hard to say this single game is reason enough to let him go. It certainly doesn’t help, though.