This game played out like seemingly countless games during the regular season. It’s a sad story, but it’s the true story of this team. They’re close, but it doesn’t seem like they’re close enough. Maybe being in seventh place in the Big Ten will count for something when Selection Sunday rolls around, but the official rule is the committee can’t consider conference affiliation. Still, I tend to think the seventh place Big Ten is a lot better than some second place team in a lot of mid-majors.
Honestly, Northwestern probably isn’t an NCAA Tournament and I’ve said that before, but they’re about as a good as a team can be without being an NCAA Tournament team and that hurts a lot. I mean they’re basically two plays away. If the proper call is made when Drew Crawford was fouled at Michigan or if Dave Sobolewski hits his runner at the end of this game then the Wildcats are in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, those events didn’t go NU’s way and now things look pretty bleak.
A lot of people will want to blame Bill Carmody for this loss because that’s just what Northwestern fans do, but the fact is the two guys who deserve blame today are John Shurna and Dave Sobolewski. Shurna missed two front ends of 1-and-1 foul shots when the ‘Cats could have extended three point leads to five point leads and Sobolewski looked scared all day leaving shots short against the Gopher pressure all night. I’d also add that since he missed some early shots that Drew Crawford did nothing, but was anyone really surprised by that once his first shot didn’t go down?
Basically, Shurna, Crawford, and Sobolewski choked away this game. Some will say that’s too mean, but it’s a fact. When you front rim as many shots at they did that’s the sign of a choke. That right there tells you they don’t deserve to be an NCAA team. Also, I can’t say Bill Carmody is really blameless because the only player on the NU roster who has proven to actually have some guts is Alex Marcotullio and Carmody sat him for the game’s key moments.
JerShon Cobb did step up and basically he’s now NU’s only NCAA hope. Somehow, NU needs to hope that the committee decides that Cobb would have made a difference in enough losses that NU is better than their record, but the truth is NU is what their record says. After all, Cobb played great today and NU still couldn’t win.
I don’t know what to think right now in terms of looking at a possible NIT berth. I mean odds are NU will be one of the top-4 NIT seeds. That’s huge because the odds are that the first game will be one which NU isn’t actually jacked up for because of the disappointment of not making the NCAAs. At least if in round 1 NU can get an easy win maybe by round two they’ll realize that basketball is basketball and at least they’re playing for something. The Big Ten should get at least three teams in the NIT and so I expect that NIT to be pretty competitive, but if NU focuses they’ll have a great shot because they’ll have home court advantage all the way to NYC.
As for the NCAA Tournament, I’d say NU still has a 10% chance of making it, but I hope that’s not enough for people to actually want to have cameras in Evanston on Sunday. All that’s going to do is make the team more depressed and that’s not what we want right now. We need to get focused on the NIT and a chance to actually win a championship. It’s not the title people want to play for, but for Northwestern it would mean something.