Fired Bill Carmody: December 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

.727 and falling

that would be NU's current winning percentage after a four point loss at Penn State today. it seemed like a flashback to last season, as NU controlled the game's pace on its way to a 11 point lead five minutes into the second half before faltering down the stretch. the wildcats were crushed (46-24) on the boards, especially defensively, as PSU picked up 19 offensive rebounds. Penn State went to the line 20 times to NU's 5.

to me, the most telling moment of the game was in the first three minutes. Shurna had a seemingly clear look at a layup, but he went up slow and weak and was promptly rejected by Jeff Brooks. if this team can't handle Penn State's quickness and physicality in the least intimidating gym in the conference (which was only one-third full), then perhaps the conference record will turn out to be even worse than expected.

Big Ten season begins

NU finishes 2008 while kicking off the Big Ten season today at noon on national TV.  this penn state team has a lot of questions about it, but the Nittany Lions are favored by 3.5.  if the Wildcats have any hope to compete in what looks to be a very tough league, this is a game they need to win.  anyone who has looked at the schedule knows it gets much tougher after today.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Take care of SMU, then things get ugly

FBC is going on vacation, so we need to cover the next few games today. tomorrow night Matt Doherty brings the SMU Mustangs to Welsh-Ryan. yes, everyone remembers him for getting run out of Carolina but it is worth noting that he turned around Notre Dame before Mike Brey took over and was AP National Coach of the Year at UNC in 2001. regardless, this SMU team is not good and should be a team that NU handles without too much difficulty. if NU wins tomorrow and against Chicago State in February, they finish the non-conference at 9-2.

Northwestern should have no problem getting into the NIT if they finish 16-14. assuming a loss in the conference tournament, that means finishing 7-11 in the Big Ten. i just don't see any way that can happen. i'm not crazy about looking ahead at the schedule and projecting wins, but if you give them a victory @ Penn State plus sweeps of Indiana and Iowa, that's only 5. and while i'm basing those wins on the quality of those teams, there is nothing in NU's recent history to suggest they'll win all three of those games on the road. Northwestern hasn't won in State College since 2002 and not @ IU since 1968, including NEVER in Assembly Hall.

besides those three teams, there is no one else in the conference Northwestern should beat. even if they sneak in a home win against Illinois, Michigan or Wisconsin, i don't see them getting to 7 conference wins. the 03/04 NU team that finished at .500 in the conference took advantage of a weak league that year. that season, only Illinois and Wisconsin got to 20 wins, and 5 teams finished with a losing record. right now, only Indiana is below a .750 winning %. all those numbers add up to a disheartening prospect - the 'cats have to wait until IU at home on January 28 for their first win of 2009, by which time that early season enthusiasm has transformed into a team just trying to stay out of the Big Ten basement. again.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Long flight back

the 'cats lose at Stanford. it was a 13 point deficit at halftime; NU cut it to 59-58 with 90 seconds left, but they only scored one more point the rest of the way. this stanford team is not that good, and this is a lost opportunity for an NU team trying to make its mark.

perhaps the biggest surprises from the Stanford game were that the Bay Area media actually refered to the Wildcats as a "big test" and Johnny Dawkins said of NU "I really respect their program."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Big road trip to Stanford

for the second consecutive game, a team with a cool mascot.

there are lots of people talking up this as an opportunity for a "program-changing win." i'm not so sure about that. it's not that i think NU will lose, but more so that if they win, how good of a win will it be? the Cardinal sits at 6-0 but every win has been over a garbage team. in fact, no team in the country has played less games than Stanford.

coming into the seeason, Blue Ribbon College Sports projected Stanford to finish with 17 wins with a 6-12 conference record. both Athlon and ESPN the Magazine picked them 9th in conference, ahead of only Oregon State. in collegehoopsnet's preseason national rankings, Stanford was 94 (NU was 128). clearly, expectations were not high for this team after losing their coach and two huge Disney fans.

that said, however, any time NU can pick up a road win is huge for the team's confidence. it will just be a little tough for many fans to follow the action, since apparently the Tribune Company wasn't kidding when it declared for bankruptcy. as they did with the Brown game, WGN is skipping the plane ride and not sending any announcers to Palo Alto, so the game's only broadcasts will be WNUR (and AM 860 in CA).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Coble and Shurna carry team to 7-1 record

it was an off night for Craig Moore and the gym was pretty empty, but NU put together enough plays for a 15 point win against UMKC. a 13-2 run in the first half pushed things out to a comfortable lead, and when the Kangaroos cut it to 6 early in the second half, a 9-0 run put things away for good. NU got a combined 42 points from Shurna and Kevin Coble, who at one point went on a personal 13-0 run. (although i can't say i'm psyched that the other four guys decided to go scoreless for about 7 1/2 minutes.)

the Wildcats had 10 blocks, the most under Carmody, and, if you take out Moore 2/8 effort from 3PT, was 50% from deep. i don't like that Moore, Thompson and Coble got a combined 8 minutes of rest in this game. if you can't sit these guys at home in December vs. UMKC, how are they supposed to hold up in February against Michigan State and Purdue?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Moving towards #1

last week Northwestern was ranked #41. today, with 7 points in the AP poll, they are ranked #40. i can't imagine that our friend David Jones put us at #19 after no games last week, so that means there are likely at least two voters out there who've noticed NU's strong start.

Sweet mascot

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Now we've gone too far

The Hoops Report put out a bracket projection today that includes eight teams from the big ten, one of which is the Northwestern Wildcats. uhh, no.

(snapshot below in case the online bracket changes)

Let's temper some of that enthusiasm

today we take a break from all the positive vibes to remember that the biggest reason people are fired up about this team is the lack of a surprising loss. granted, a four point loss at still-undefeated Butler will hold up well, although DePaul looks like they might be terrible.

but in every other season under Bill Carmody, this team has lost to a low-major team, often at home, in the pre-conference schedule. this year NU hasn't (yet) slipped up against inferior competition, and the fact that this has created such enthusiasm among the purple fan base should tell you how desperate we are for some success. here is a look at the bad starts the previous seven seasons got off to...

2007 - home loss to Brown

2006 - home loss to Cornell; neutral site loss to Tennessee Tech

2005 - home losses to UNC Wilmington and UIC

2004 - this one's not terrible: two competitive losses to New Mexico State and Utah State at the Top of the World Classic.

2003 - road loss @ UIC; neutral site loss to Mississippi Valley State

2002 - home losses to IUPUI and UIC

2001 - neutral site losses to East Carolina and Fordham

2000 - home losses to Arkansas Little Rock and Kent State; road losses to LaSalle and Pepperdine

and this is not a problem limited to the Bill Carmody era. in fact, you have to go all the way back to the 1993/94 NIT team to find a season that didn't have a bad loss in November or December. hopefully i didn't just jinx us.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Alamo Bowl preview - basketball edition

in honor of the 9-3 football team heading to San Antonio, i've put together a comprehensive look at how this all relates to the NU hoops team. (i realize these numbers are completely irrelevant, but the team doesn't play again until next week and i have a lot of free time on my hands.)
  • Northwestern is 3-4 all-time against Missouri. NU is technically on a three-game winning streak; the most recent victory was by 12 in Evanston... in December 1968.
  • NU is 2-7 in games played in the state of Texas.
  • under Bill Carmody, the Wildcats are 2-2 against the Big 12. NU swept a home-and-home with Kansas State in '01 and '02 and dropped one against Colorado in '03 and '04.
  • NU has played in four bowl-related basketball tournaments: 1968 Gator Bowl, 1975 Sun Bowl, 1988 Fiesta Bowl and 2004 Sun Bowl. its record in those games is 3-5.
  • speaking of bowls, NU has all-time records of 1-3 vs. UCLA, 2-1 vs. Bowling Green, 1-2 vs. Nebraska, 1-0 vs. Tennessee, 3-6 vs. USC and 1-2 vs. Cal.
hopefully all those negative numbers and the 13.5 point spread aren't too much for Corey Wootton and Co. to overcome as they try to slow down Mizzou's army of Chases.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dead hookers for everyone!

A look at the polls. Wait... what?!

you read correctly. this is a FBC first as we'll actually look at Northwestern's spot in the rankings. there are a number of different RPI systems out there, and despite using similar methodologies (25% winning percentage, 50% opponents' winning percentage, 25% opponents' opponents winning percentage) they don't all add up to the exact same result.

the Wildcats come in 6th on, while NU is 7th according to sites here and here, as well as the most widely used, which purports to be the "official" RPI. those sites reward NU's strength of schedule - ranked somewhere between 9 and 11, which i simply don't understand.

the math gets a little more complicated with Jeff Sagarin's ratings, but the results are more realistic. here Northwestern comes in 36th, with a SOS of 202. this seems more in line with their actual schedule.

yesterday we told you that NU received four points in this week's AP poll (none in the USA Today coaches' poll). for comparison's sake, Butler is 34 in AP and 32 in USA Today while Florida State is 37 AP and tied-39 USA Today. the Big Ten has three ranked teams - Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State - with Michigan and Wisconsin on the fringe.

there is certainly no shame in losing at now 7-0 Butler, and it is in NU's best interests that the Bulldogs keep winning. similarly, Northwestern gets a boost from Florida State's win over Florida on Sunday night. we want NU's wins (and losses) to look as strong as possible. of course, relative strength of wins and losses is used primarily to differentiate teams on the bubble come Selection Sunday. seven games into the schedule on December 9 is a little to early for NU bubble talk, so i'll stop myself there.

Monday, December 08, 2008

David Jones likes the Wildcats

in the just-released Associated Press poll, your Northwestern Wildcats are officially ranked #41. NU received 4 points, but don't confuse that with four votes. the poll works on a point system, with a vote as #1 being worth 25 points all the way down to #25 worth 1 point.

FBC has located NU's sole source of support. David Jones covers Penn State athletics for the Patriot-News, and his ballot has Northwestern at #22, good enough to move us into the coveted Others Receiving Votes category. the team is off this week for final exams, so let's just enjoy these seven days in the top 50.

NU drawing some notice

Northwestern's wins over ACC and Big East foes last week have caught the eye of several national observers...

from Fox Sports:
JOB CONTROL: How about Northwestern's Bill Carmody, rumored to be on the hot seat, getting a win against Florida State and following it up with a 63-36 rout of DePaul? The Wildcats are 6-1 and have won three straight games.

the New York Times college sports blog:
DePaul put together two bad halves in its 63-36 loss to Northwestern. Or, to put it another way, Northwestern put together two strong halves in its 63-36 victory over DePaul. The Wildcats (6-1) are experiencing their best start since the 2001-02 season.

“It’s a unique feeling,” Kevin Coble said. “This week for Northwestern basketball has been one of the best in a long time.”

Coble, a 6-8 junior, shot 11 for 19 and had 25 points, 6 rebounds and no turnovers.

and we're mentioned in Andy Katz's Weekly Watch for good NU wins and a bad DePaul loss.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Defense continues to dominate

there wasn't much doubt about this one.  NU jumped out to leads of 7-0 and 20-8 on their way to a 31-16 halftime lead, and DePaul never got closer than 13 in the second half.  Coble and Moore combined for 39 points and went 7/15 from 3PT, but this one was about the defense:  36 points allowed, 24% FG defense, 3/15 3PT defense, only two Blue Demons scored more than 5 points.  all of that adds up to DePaul's lowest point total since 1949.

NU now sits at 6-1 and look like they will enter conference play at 8-2.  i'm projecting a loss at Stanford and wins in home games against the 3-6 UMKC Kangaroos (although they do have wins over Valley teams Bradley and Wichita State) and 3-3 SMU. (i'm not impressed by wins over Houston Baptist, Alabama State and Texas A&M International)
i'm not going to stop complaining about the attendance (again less than 50% full today), but the way this team is playing is a little startling.  it's not just the wins or even the margin of victory.  these guys are playing (and shooting) with a ton of confidence in a way that i haven't seen since the days of Evan Eschmeyer.  and that confidence apparently has seeped into the fan base.  text messages i received during the game today included "this team is going to win the big ten" and "I'm in for march madness.  punch my ticket."  i even found myself wondering if we'd move into the "Others Receiving Votes" category on Monday.  dare we dream???

'Cats look to build on momentum

NU returns to the court this afternoon to take on a 4-1 DePaul team.  the Blue Demons are very young this year, and they should be tired.  coming off their first loss of the season @ Cal on Wednesday night, the team got back into Chicago late Thursday and didn't practice until after the women's game last night.
i expect finally we'll get over the 50% capacity mark today in attendance; let's just hope that more fans are in purple than in blue.  ESPN generally does a good job of finding ways to hide empty seats during their telecasts, but this shot of Welsh-Ryan on Wednesday snuck in there.  the second level is looking pretty lonely...

Friday, December 05, 2008

NU in the top 20 (sort of)

who knows if we'll ever be this high again so i had to capture a shot of this now. Northwestern is currently 18th in the RPI, ahead of teams like Texas, Tennessee and Notre Dame. and this doesn't account for our win against FSU, so if NU can knock off DePaul tomorrow they will conceivably move up.

i'm a little perplexed as to how NU can have the 25th hardest schedule, but i'll take it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

THAT was impressive

to be honest, that is the type of game we've been waiting for. for eight years, we've been hearing "Princeton offense" and "back-door cuts," and tonight was that game. against a quicker and more athletic team, NU played great defense, slowed down the game once they got a lead, and knocked down outside shots, all adding up to a 14 point victory.

the game changed when Moore picked up his third foul three minutes into the second half. he stayed in the game, drew two charges, and teamed with Peljusic for their own personal 13-2 run. Ivan's back-to-back-to-back dunk, three, & and-1 gave NU the lead and they never really looked back. Moore is clearly the heart and soul of this team. he looked lost and frustrated as he didn't get off his first shot until seven minutes into the game, but his lead spot in that three-quarter court press seemed to help wear down FSU and keep the game at NU's pace.

Jeff Ryan got off to a slow start, including a missed layup, but he played through a nasty scratch on the face and ended up with more minutes than Shurna. Ryan and Peljusic took what had been Shurna and Mirkovic's spots in the lineup down the stretch. Shurna did have four offensive rebounds and eight points, but my god, that "jumpshot" is ugly.

at one point late in the second half, it looked like Toney Douglas had figured out that no one could guard him off the dribble, and i expected him to just take over. but the defense clamped down, holding FSU to just 27% shooting in the second half, and Douglas finished with seven turnovers.

of course, time will tell how big a victory this was. it is entirely possible, even likely, that Florida State just isn't that good. as the Wildcats were wrapping up the win, and the announcers were pontificating on what this win will bring to NU and Bill Carmody, all i could think of was that famous movie quote cautioning us not to get ahead of ourselves. you know, this one.

a few other random observations...
  • 58% (18/31) from the free throw line is obviously a concern. they left a lot of points at the line.
  • i will put Northwestern's ratio of white guys to muscles up against anybody from the Ivy or Patriot leagues.
  • all those empty seats were a disappointment. the announcers did mention inclement weather, but attendance was only 3537, and i was hoping we could at least get the place half-filled.
  • the Wildcats won the battle on the boards 41-33, including 18 offensive rebounds.
  • to clear up the debate between announcers Terry Gannon and Stephen Bardo about this guy's haircut, the correct description is a fauxhawk. Dulkys looks like he belongs on this site.
  • late in the game, Bardo delivered the line of the night when comparing the body types of Tavaras Hardy the Assistant Coach with Tavaras Hardy the Player: "He looks like he got stung by a few bees."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Big Ten - ACC Challenge tied at 3-3

we all know the ACC has won all 9 of these things, and since 2003 their record is 36-15, but this year is not a beat-down, at least not yet. and the Big Ten could have had more; Iowa missed free throws to tie it @ BC, and Illinois, down by two with ~15 seconds left, decided to dribble around and not get a shot off against Clemson. Purdue was handled by Duke, Minnesota moved to 7-0, and Ohio State's win should come with an asterisk since Miami's Jack McClinton was ejected early for a little girly slap on Anthony Crater.

tonight all 5 ACC teams are favored, and the closest underdog is Northwestern, getting 1.5 points at home. NU is 1-9 in the Challenge, including 1-2 vs. FSU. Bill Carmody is going for his 200th career victory.

and while this has nothing to do with NU basketball, i'd like to congratulate Mike Phelps on being named SI's Sportsman of the Year. what a nice honor for someone who, when he's not driving around drunk, is bringing his stripper girlfriend home to Mom.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wildcats move to 4-1 with undefeated Seminoles looming

Welcome to the season, Kyle Rowley. the big man contributed 10 points in 20 minutes, including a layup in transition and a couple nice baby hooks in the lane. his performance drew these cryptic comments from his coach:

"He's niftier than you think. And when Kyle gets rebounds they look like rebounds are supposed to look. There's something there I think."

wow, that's pretty high praise. thanks, coach.

anyway, while the team's outside shooting had an off night (4/20), we finally saw the impact of the bigger roster: a 12 point advantage in the paint and a 37-29 victory on the boards.

next up is 7-0 Florida State, who is coming off wins over Cincinnati and Cal at a tournament last weekend in Vegas. NU will have match-up problems with quick guard Toney Douglas and 6' 9" freshman forward Chris Singleton. while this is by no means a dominant FSU squad - four of their victories are by a combined 11 points - this is still an ACC opponent currently ranked 31st in the AP poll. at home, on national television... i'll stop short of calling it a statement game, but this is definitely an opportunity to win a game we we're not supposed to, which is what this program has been missing. FSU's athleticism will exceed anything NU has faced so far this year, but hopefully their defense will be able to slow them down. we can expect the largest home crowd of the season, although that's not saying much considering the average attendance for the first three home games is 3000.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Here come the Highlanders

i don't have stats on the last time Northwestern men's basketball was favored by 16 points, but surely it has been a while. UC Riverside comes into tonight's game at 4-1, but those four wins have come against very weak competition and they were handled easily @ New Mexico State. the latest Sagarin rankings have UCR at #255 out of 347 teams. NU, by the way, currently sits at #58, sixth-best in the conference.