Fired Bill Carmody: February 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

On senior day, Craig Moore comes through when needed

Moore hit late three and added two free throws to secure the win over Iowa.  time will tell if this leads to bigger and better things for the underclassmen, but today's win should secure a postseason bid somewhere.  even if they lose out, you figure a 16-14 record will be good enough.  of course, a win or two will help get a home game or two, but the 3-6 road record doesn't inspire much confidence.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

NU made that look easy

not only did the Wildcats get their first win in Assembly Hall, but they handed Indiana their worst loss ever in that building. it is the first Northwestern sweep of IU since the last time they won in Bloomington - 1968 - and the 22-point win was Northwestern's largest margin in a conference victory since beating Michigan 58-34 ten years ago. we already knew that right now IU is as bad as they've ever been (and probably ever will be again), but a win is a win. not only did Indiana give a uniform to one of its managers, but they will probably do it again. Mike Santa actually played last night and his position is listed in the espn box score as N/A.

tommorrow we'll take a look ahead to what has become the biggest game of the season.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Facing the Hoosiers and a whole lot of history

make no mistake, this Indiana team is bad. they have 5 D-I wins, and aside from their lone conference victory over Iowa, their best wins are over #118 Cornell and #133 TCU. but you know they'll be hungry after coming oh-so-close in Evanston on January 28. and considering they finish at home with Michigan State, the crowd will be in full force against NU in an effort to get one last home win this season.

Assembly Hall is the ultimate house of horrors for Northwestern basketball. NU has never won in that building, losing by an average margin of 20.5 (15 under Carmody). the worst defeat was by 52 during IU's 1987 national championship season. the closest to a win Northwestern has come was the 1999 NIT team, which lost by three, 81-78. Esch had 27 pts, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the first ever triple-double in Assembly Hall. that was a tremendous game where NU used a 24-8 run to tie the game with three minutes left before the late William Gladness banked in a shot-clock-buzzer-beating three.

in the Wildcats win last month, the stats for both teams (FG%, 3PT%, TOs, fouls) were almost identical, so this one figures to be close as well. Moore and Coble need to shoot the ball well, and it will be interesting to see if Rowley can do some things inside.

meanwhile, Jim Phillips better move quickly to lock up Coach Carmody. it is only a matter of time before Michigan State makes him a formal offer to be head coach designate.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another disaster in the upper Midwest

similar to last month's loss at Wisconsin, the outcome yesterday was never in doubt. there wasn't much that NU did right...

- only 8 two point field goals
- 11/17 FTs (vs MN's 21/27)
- out-rebounded 40-21

more than a couple fans have noticed that Kyle Rowley seems to be getting better, although he still is far from an impact player. and it's safe to say a lot of the shine has worn off Jeremy Nash. Carmody offered no explanation as to why Moore got only 18 minutes.

the trip to IU is pretty damn close to a must-win if the Wildcats don't want to get shut out of the postseason again.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Phillips says Carmody's job is safe

well, it appears i have to keep this stupid site going for a while longer: BC ain't goin' anywhere.

yes, i've been critical of Carmody's tenure. i did think it was an inspired hire 9 years ago, but he hasn't shown the ability to achieve any kind of sustained success in this league. and please don't give me that crap about "Give him time... he's starting to turn it around..." lest we forget, in 2004 Carmody rode Vedran Vukusic and Jitim Young to an 8-8 conference record in what was a terrible Big Ten that year. but NU didn't play in the postseason in part because wins over Illinois and Wisconsin were balanced by losses to UIC, Rutgers and Mississippi Valley State. the next four seasons' conference records were 6-10, 6-10, 2-14, and 1-17. and the season before the 8-8 year NU finished 3-13.

my point is that you cannot look at '08/'09 in a vacuum. this year's modicum of success doesn't erase the last eight seasons. and there is no reason to think that things will get better. next year NU's returning players will come back smarter and perhaps stronger, but not faster. meanwhile, the other teams' returning players are also getting smarter and stronger, and those players were better than NU's to begin with. yes, Tavaras Hardy has improved NU's recruiting, but let's keep things in perspective here. i don't think Tom Izzo, Tom Crean or Tubby Smith are worried about losing any players to us.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A partial review of last year's coaching carousel

i am annually fascinated by the comings and goings of coaches. i read just as much college hoops coverage after the season ends to learn about the hot names and see who is going where. and of course, when this coaching movement involves nerdy schools who have better basketball programs than NU, it is all the more interesting. here is an inside look at what Stanford did and didn't do last year.

Craig Robinson continues to impress, going from 6-25/0-18 to 12-13/6-8, and i said from the outset that Stanford made a mistake. Dawkins certainly isn't helping Collins or Wojo get a head job anytime soon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Now to the road for 4 of last 5

it was a relief when the 'Cats held on last night, especially when turnovers by Nash and Thompson coughed up a 5 point lead in the last 90 seconds. as we look ahead at the schedule, there are no completely unwinnable games, and two that NU "should" win. at the same time, no one would be shocked if they lost all five. two W's should all but guarantee a postseason berth.

their last three conference wins are by a combined 8 points and the last three conference losses are by a combined 9, so what happens is really anyone's guess. but i will predict a loss on Sunday considering Minnesota's 13-2 record at The Barn (with only two losses to Purdue and Michigan State).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


after a slow start to the second half, the Wildcats make a 21-3 nice run to take a lead they would only briefly give up the rest of the way. Coble finally woke up and poured in 26 points to go with Moore's 23. Shurna hit the game winner with 3 seconds left after being on an IV minutes before tip-off. the rotation continued to change as Rowley was on the court in crunch time- he played 23 minutes and Curletti added 13 minutes in place of Mirkovic and Peljusic, neither of whom got off the bench. but tonight it worked, so i'll take it.

Penn State doing what NU can't

and by that i mean, staying in the top half of the conference and keeping hope alive for an at-large bid.  if you told me that Illinois, playing at home, held PSU to 28% shooting and only 38 points, i would assume the Illini won.  i would be wrong.

Questions about playing time

more than a few fans have raised questions about Carmody's inconsistent rotation. today's Daily goes into that a little bit but neither the article nor the coach offers much explanation. i looked at the last few games and you can see the range in mpg per player below. probably Ryan and Peljusic experience the wildest swings. it's also interesting that Ryan's significant minutes at Michigan and Iowa almost disappeared entirely after those losses.

for me, this has been a source of frustration for much of the season. and it's not just minutes played but also who is on the court together. there doesn't seem to be much of a pattern in terms of who plays with whom, and as a player, i would think that's a less than ideal situation. i can't help but wonder if Jeff Ryan's 18 minutes of play are affected by any thoughts in the back of his mind that if he messes up, he won't get off the bench next time. here is another interesting look at contributions of different players in the last three games.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Now what?

last week i wrote that the team "needs to focus on forgetting the Iowa debacle and avoiding a collapse down the stretch." uhh, not off to a great start. probably the worst part of the Illinois and Michigan losses is that now the team gets reminders of the early games that got away(Butler, PSU, Purdue). the good vibes from Minnesota and Michigan State feel very distant and now NU just needs to stop the bleeding. i will stop short of calling this slide Clemsonesqe - as in, start 17-0 and play in the NIT - but it certainly instills no confidence going forward.

i don't think facing Ohio State is going to help much. while BJ Mullens hasn't played up to expectations, he still offers a legitimate inside presence. given what Manny Harris did on Sunday, i certainly don't see any reason why the Wildcats will slow down Evan Turner, who at this point is the leading, if underwhelming, candidate for Big Ten POY.

the Buckeyes enter this game with a 3-4 road record featuring wins @ Indiana, Michigan and Miami (although the last should get an asterisk because Jack McClinton was ejected). when Ohio State loses on the road, it's usually because they struggle to score (see: 48 pts @ WVU, 49 pts @ Illinois, 50 pts @ Wisconsin). but the bottom line is that OSU hasn't lost to a team higher than 36 in the RPI, and NU is currently 83. Ohio State has twice lost consecutive games this season, but in each case the second loss was to Michigan State. coming off their miserable performance in Madison last Saturday, i figure the Buckeyes will right the ship against a Northwestern team (and fan base) that is perilously close to imploding.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A welcome change from the Big Ten

FBC is going to the Pitt-UConn game tonight, so it will be a nice upgrade from the mediocre parity that has permeated the nation's oldest collegiate athletic conference. later in the week we'll take a closer look at the rest of the season and what should happen at the end of it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

NU's season officially circling the drain

today the 'cats rode 4/17 3PT shooting and six points from Craig Moore to their third straight loss.  let's be honest:  getting to a .500 finish is going to be a real struggle.

not that it matters much after today, but here is a reminder of how much those Purdue and Illinois losses hurt.

At least they can't blow a big halftime lead

NU leads Michigan by two at the break. Shurna is single-handedly keeping them in this game, as Moore, Coble and Thompson are shooting a combined 3/14.

for everyone who has finally gotten over Thursday's loss, read this. dammit, that TCU game still pisses me off.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More observations

it's not that i'm surprised NU choked the game away in the second half, but i certainly didn't expect it to happen like that. i actually thought the turning point would be a few minutes into the second half. NU had a 6 point lead when Coble was called for a questionable foul while banging inside. (Bruce Weber even knew they got away with one. you could see him tell Mike Tisdale, "Be careful.") McCamey hit a three and then another one to make it 39-37. but to the Wildcats' credit they responded to that sequence with a 12-0 run. McCamey was terrible - missing shots and barrelling into the lane out of control. he didn't make another field goal until the game winner.

it was during this stretch that Stephen Bardo commented that Illinois could get back into this game with defense since "they have no problem scoring the basketball." apparently Stephen didn't notice that Illini had only 37 points eight minutes into the second half. as if to further reinforce the absurdity of his point, the Illinois scored four points over the next six minutes.

it sure would have been nice to have a timeout left after that last bucket. 2.9 seconds is plenty of time to get a good shot, and Moore still had time to work with when he launched from midcourt. those panicky timeouts called against the press really hurt there.

Mirkovic played well in his 35 minutes. it was nice to see him wanting the ball in the low post; contrast that with Rowley, who usually doesn't know what to do when he accidentally gets an offensive rebound. even if they never throw it inside, Mirkovic appeared to have pretty good post position which helps keep the defense honest.

great job by the NU student section. they were loud and wearing a lot of purple. they even pulled off the whole distraction behind the basket thing on a couple free throws. i was also impressed they even realized Illinois had missed all their free throws and cheered sarcastically when they finally made one.

all the orange in the stands was not a shock, but damn, some of those people had good seats. i understand you can't track who gets each ticket and second-hand sales out of your control, but you can't even put purple shirts in the first row behind NU's bench?!? i don't care if they have to give tickets away for free to faculty or staff... the athletic department has got to do a better job than that.

That was quite a come-from-ahead loss

how to handle this? should this game be carefully dissected in LTP fashion (good/bad/ugly) or does it warrant an all-out rant? either way, that was simply a crushing loss. obviously the significance of a who-gives-a-shit regular season big ten game pales in comparison, but as far as a late game collapse that ranks right up there with Memphis-Kansas or Gonzaga-UCLA.

let's review the particulars - NU up 14 with 4:57 left, up 9 with 2:10 left, up 6 with 1:01 left. in the ncaa tournament you'll hear coaches and analysts refer to each game as made up 8 four-minute games (separated by the media timeouts). on Thursday Northwestern won the first seven of those mini games, the last of which ended at 57-50 with 3:41 remaining. a Coble basket even extended that lead by two, and then it was all over. when Mike Davis missed that layup i actually breathed a sigh of relief, but NU kept giving Illinois chances.

here's a good idea against the press - GET THE BALL TO THE POINT GUARD. i appreciate Mirkovic's enthusiasm in wanting to help out the team, but there is no reason he should be anywhere near the ball in the backcourt. i assume NU has Thompson inbound the ball because he is the best passer, but then as soon as he steps on the court he should have it back in his hands. not only were the turnovers a killer, but so was using up all our timeouts (including one to narrowly avoid a ten second violation).

look, i understand Northwestern normally uses a lot of clock in their offense, and it is fine to use a few extra seconds when you have a lead. but there is nothing wrong with trading baskets either. if you have an open layup or path to the basket, take it. what's the point of using up time if you're going to end up throwing up a fadeaway at the shot clock buzzer? Arizona State employed this tactic perfectly last night in their win over UCLA. ASU was up 4 with 30 seconds left, dribbling around while UCLA was trying to foul. but Derek Glasser kept his eyes up court and threw a lob to Jeff Pendergraph for the dunk. now ASU is up 6, game over. i'm not suggesting that the Wildcats can afford to be quite that cavalier with the ball, but as long as you keep scoring, the other team can't catch you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

unf#ckingbelievable, Act II


First half thoughts

Mirkovic gets the start tonight over Rowley and immediately delivers with two 3s in the first six minutes. (although Rowley did set a fantastic screen late in the half to get Craig Moore an open three.) another change tonight was NU coming out a little man-to-man defense, and it got them out to a fast start.

this game just has a feel to it that things will change in the second half. the Wildcats lead in FTs (3/3 vs. 0/5), 3PT shooting (6/13 vs. 3/10) and rebounds (12 vs. 10). NU has 11 assists on 11 made field goals. you have to figure some of these stats are going to change in the next 20 minutes. let's hope not all of them.

Even oranger that we thought

dammit, Stephen Bardo is calling the game tonight (with Terry Gannon). it's bad enough that Bardo is not terribly insightful, but he was part of that 1989 Flyin' Illini team with Kendall Gill, Marcus Liberty, Nick Anderson and Kenny Battle. let's hope Bardo can stay somewhat neutral tonight.

by the way, Vegas has NU as only a two-point underdog. the Wildcats are 6-3 at home against the spread.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another road game in Welsh-Ryan

last year Dan Dakich helped prepare Eric Gordon for the Illini crowd by telling him, "If you're worried about some engineering student from Wilmette in an orange shirt, you're not as tough as I thought you were." that same advice could be given to Craig Moore and Kevin Coble tonight, as there figures to be plenty of orange in NU's home gym.

this year's U of I squad has exceeded expectations after a losing season last year. but NU has won 4 in a row at home and Illinois has lost 4 in a row on the road. there is no reason the Wildcats should get run off the floor, but this will be the best team they face in the rest of the regular season. now that we've all moved on from those brief ncaa tournament thoughts, this squad needs to focus on forgetting the Iowa debacle and avoiding a collapse down the stretch. as all Northwestern fans know, an NIT bid is a pretty big deal.

our best hope is that the Northwestern kids aren't outnumbered in their own building - since it won't be surprising if NU's non-student fans are - and that the team team can recapture some of that FSU/ESPN2 magic. it would also help if the Fighting Illini's athleticism failed at key moments of the game.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

NU content to let Iowa beat them

well THAT certainly didn't look like a tournament team.  look, i realize that NU plays the 1-3-1 most of the time, but you would think that after a first half in which 17 of Iowa's 20 shots came from behind the arc, Coach Carmody might want to throw in a little man-to-man.  everyone knows that threes from the corner are the easiest shot to get against that defense.  clearly, Devan Bawinkel and the Iowa coaching staff knew that.  but NU just sat back and hoped that enough of those shots didn't go in.

the Wildcats got nothing out of Kevin Coble, although that's not entirely his fault since he was confusingly on the bench for long stretches of the second half.  giving one of your two top players only 26 minutes when he has no fouls doesn't seem like a winning strategy.

Iowa is a bad team that did not play well, but NU was just awful enough to lose.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Remembering Ricky Byrdsong

it was 15 years ago today that Ricky Byrdsong wandered into the stands in the middle of NU's game at Minnesota on February 7, 1994. that was during a bizarre season for the Wildcats; one in which they started 9-0 and then went 0-9 in the conference season. Byrdsong's stunt stopped the slide, and the team then alternated wins and losses for the rest of the season. entering senior night and the final game of the season, the Wildcats needed a win to be eligible for the NIT. they pulled out a remarkable OT win against #8 Michigan and then beat DePaul in the NIT.

this article does a pretty good job of capturing the madness from that season. and no, i'm not amused when other coaches steal Ricky's idea.

Friday, February 06, 2009

HUGE road game

iowa ranks last in the conference in ppg and FG per game (both attempted and made). only three Hawkeyes average in double figures, and no one more than 11.3 ppg. their best player, Cyrus Tate, was injured against Minnesota and hasn't played since. they've been led by Matt Gatens, who plays the most minutes among all conference freshmen. with former Butler coach Todd Lickliter in charge, Iowa likes to slow things down. in some cases, REALLY slow them down.

perhaps due in part to that style of play, Iowa must also be struggling with getting students in the door. this is from their game notes for Saturday:

All current UI students who purchased a student season ticket will be allowed to bring a friend to each of Iowa's remaining home games for free. Free pizza will once again be served to the first 200 students to arrive at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for Saturday's game against Northwestern.

the Hawkeyes won't be afraid to fire up threes against the zone defense, but NU should be able to turn them over. given the way these two teams are playing and the relatively even levels of talent on the floor, this is an enormous opportunity for NU to improve upon their 2-5 road record. win this game, with three more at home to follow, and they have a real chance to show they belong. oh, and there another good possibility for a double whitewash in this game.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Projection time

first Lunardi had NU on the bubble, now Jerry Palm has Northwestern IN THE FIELD. the Wildcats are a 12 seed in this week's version of Projecting the Field. interesting that he has NU in over Penn State, conceivably due to the difference in strength of schedule (although the RPI is about the same).

i don't care to get into whether Northwestern should be in the bracket if the season ends today, since it doesn't. but as we sit here on February 5 it is inarguable that NU has a chance to make the tournament, given the nine regular season games in front of them. obviously, if NU wins the rest of their games (heading into the conf tourney at 22-7, 13-5) that would be enough. just as obviously, that is not going to happen. so let's take a look at what's in front of them and make some assumptions.

five road games remain, and let's give them losses at Minnesota, Purdue and Ohio State. Iowa has lost 7 of 8, although their only home losses were to Michigan State and by three to Minnesota. i'll be generous and give NU wins @ Iowa and @ Indiana. (the fact that the Hoosiers took a victory lap last night tells me they don't foresee many more victories coming this season.)

i'll chalk up home wins against Michigan and Iowa. that gets them to 17-10. perhaps the hardest to predict are the home games against Ohio State and Illinois. the crowd will be amped up for the Illinois game, but something tells me OSU is better than everyone thinks. if NU wins one of those games, they finish at 18-11.

seeing 18-11 in print makes me think that win total is too high. Ken Pomeroy - who ditched his RPI ratings and now focuses on forecasting game outcomes - thinks NU will finish 17-12. that sounds about right.

All hail the ugly jumpshot

seriously, look at that thing. if it wasn't for the defender, you'd assume he was catching the ball, not shooting it. but it works for Shurna, and his four threes in the first three minutes of the second half pushed NU's lead from 6 to 14 and they never really looked back. Holston was held to 22, and the most remarkable thing about Chicago State's effort is not that only three players scored; it is that only three players TRIED to score. Holston, Cantrell and Montgomery combined to take 44 of the Cougars' 51 shots.

next up is a trip to Iowa City against a struggling Hawkeyes squad.

Monday, February 02, 2009

'Cats welcome Chicago State to Evanston

back in December Kyle Whelliston wrote a piece on Chicago State's best player, David Holston. (because, of course, that's what Kyle Whelliston always does: write over 1500 words on a player/coach/school no one has heard of). last week in a 123-121 4OT loss to Utah Valley State. Holston missed 16 of 21 threes and still put up 41. but he was outdone by UVSC's Ryan Toolson, who shot a ridiculous 18/31, 7/11 and 20/21 on his way to 63 points and the win.

Holston is the nation's third leading scorer and Chicago State likes to run, averaging 82 ppg. i don't know that NU will be able to slow them down entirely, but obviously this is a team they should beat. if all goes well, Holston will cause no more problems than the last time Northwestern hosted one of the top scorers in the country.

Let the madness begin

today marks Northwestern's entry into Joe Lunardi's Bracketology. we're not in, but we're in the conversation. i hope this month turns out better than it did ten years ago. in February 1999, NU got to 14-6 and 6-4 in the conference. there was some bubble talk then, too, even by one Richard Phelps. Digger was on campus for a non-basketball related speaking engagement in Harris Hall and took our questions about the Wildcats' at-large chances. of course, that was before NU wrapped up the month by losing six in a row.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

On paper, not sure how this win happened

if you'd told me that only one NU player would finish with more than 9 points, and that Coble and Thompson would combine for 14 points and just 1 three in 69 minutes, i certainly would not have predicted a Northwestern victory.  ten missed free throws didn't help, but the 'cats got to the line an astonishing 21 times in the second half and Moore made them when he needed to.

the students made a fairly strong effort, although there was still a lot of red in the house.  (the Airball chant was pretty robust when Rowley missed his free throw.)  but this was a solid, hard-fought win that moves Northwestern to seventh place in the conference.

meanwhile, i continue to be perplexed at the impact Jeremy Nash has been having in the last month.  look, i realize that the 1-3-1 is a little different to prepare for and i know Nash's athleticism has been impressive in disrupting passing lanes.  but i'm astonished that the novelty hasn't worn off.  you're telling me that Final Four coaches like Tubby Smith, Tom Izzo and Tom Crean can't do anything to neutralize Jeremy freaking Nash?!?  i just find it hard to believe that in a league where other teams have better athletes than Northwestern, they can't take this guy out of the game.