Saturday, December 22, 2012

Northwestern Basketball: That’s Not the Sky Falling…It’s Pieces of the Scoreboard

NU fans might want to bring their hard hats to Welsh-Ryan on Sunday

Yes, pieces of Northwestern’s ancient scoreboard fell on to the court before Friday night’s game nearly hitting Dave Sobolewksi, Nikola Cerina, and an NU trainer in the head. If that doesn’t just about sum up Northwestern basketball then I don’t know what can. I’ve had my moments of criticism for head coach Bill Carmody, but the fact the guy chooses to stick it out at Northwestern in spite of everything he has working against him (which is pretty much everything) is really pretty impressive. I still think he made a mistake in not sticking with the 1-3-1 after it worked for a possession early in the game, but he’s not the first coach or person to make a mistake (I’ve made mistakes and actually one might be believing anyone else would have more success as NU’s coach) and at least he was smart enough to eventually go to it instead of being so stubborn that he wouldn’t admit his mistake. I also want to point out that this isn’t second guessing. I stated in my preview that NU should play 1-3-1 and I tweeted great excitement at seeing it early and then great dismay when the ‘Cats went away from it and Stanford went on a 12-2 run. Not that I feel like I need to prove it to the 25 people who still read this blog regularly, but here’s my tweet after NU first played 1-3-1 when the score was 10-10:

And here’s my depression after NU went back to man-to-man and Stanford went on a run:

Regardless, the law of Northwestern basketball (which is apparently Murphy’s) has once again hit as NU not only lost last night’s game, but also saw leading scorer Reggie Hearn go down with an ankle injury. Hearn may or may not return for tomorrow’s game vs Brown. Overall, Northwestern now has had injuries to seven key players during this season. Two of them (JerShon Cobb and Drew Crawford) won’t be back the rest of the season and a third (Nikola Cerina) hasn’t come back yet. My guess is that two more (Sanjay Lumpkin and Alex Marcotullio) aren’t playing at 100% despite playing well last night.

All those injuries would be hard enough to deal with for any coach, but at Northwestern Bill Carmody also has to face playing in an out of date gym that has a scoreboard that’s falling apart and various clocks with light blubs burnt out and practice facilities which are worse than those at some division three schools. There is also the issue of NU’s academic restrictions limiting the recruiting pool and the fact the Big Ten is probably the NCAA’s best conference. This isn’t meant to be an excuse for Carmody, but at this point I feel like I’m about ready to throw up my hands and declare “I’m done!” with Northwestern basketball and all I do is watch so I’m pretty impressed that despite having to actually work with all those issues that he sticks around. I can guarantee any Patriot League or Ivy League school would hire Carmody if he asked for a job and he’d probably get better facilities at a good percentage of them.

So what’s left to look forward to this season? I’d like to think NU can compete with a number of Big Ten teams if they can compete with Stanford who will finish in the top half of the PAC-12, but if injuries keep mounting that could be a problem. The bad luck surrounding NU basketball has just become ridiculous at this point and I think the only way to reverse that bad luck for Northwestern is to buy themselves some good luck. That starts with upgrading Welsh-Ryan Arena. I know it’s going to happen tomorrow (though the falling pieces of the scoreboard should be addressed rather quickly) but at some point NU needs to get serious about investing in basketball or we’re all just wasting our time and energy in hoping for an NCAA bid. It doesn’t matter if it’s Carmody or a resurrected John Wooden the Wildcats coaching staff cannot be seriously expected to compete for a Big Ten Title and an NCAA Tournament bid while playing in a 1980s relic while other traditional non-basketball powers like Nebraska and Penn State invest hugely in their programs. At some point that investment is going to payoff and if Northwestern hasn’t made at least some similar invest they’re going to be even farther behind the times and the task of making the NCAA Tournament at NU which is already nearly impossible will truly become impossible.

By the way, Northwestern plays another game tomorrow against Brown. Brown should have a fairly big crowd at Welsh-Ryan since they have three players from the Chicago-area. However, the Bears are just 3-5 and shouldn’t be all that much of a challenge for NU. I predict: Northwestern, 78 Brown, 64


Glenn said...

All good points, but "compete for a Big Ten title?" I can't ever see that happening (maybe a miracle run in the BTT).

Right now, NU's peak seems to be getting to above-.500 in conference play which would seemingly result in a tournament bid.

Ryan said...

Yeah, I agree a regular season Big Ten title is a reach, but I've always believed NU's best chance at the NCAA tournament is winning 4 games in a row in the BTT. That's almost certainly the case this year.