Thursday, March 19, 2009
thank goodness for March Madness On Demand
Unable to capitalize
the first of these stretches was the last 12 minutes of the first half. of course, some of this wasn't televised because the VaTech game hadn't ended yet, but in the last 11:45 of the first half, Tulsa made exactly two field goals. yes, they made seven free throws in that stretch to hang around, but NU only had a two point lead at the break. that had to be encouraging for the Hurricane, especially after they shot only 33% (including 2/13 from 3PT) and figured to shoot much better in the second half of a home game. which, of course, they did.
the other stretch that killed the Wildcats was - SURPRISE, SURPRISE! - the last seven minutes of regulation. Tulsa scored their 60th point at 7:27 and didn't score again until free throws with 20 seconds left. while NU cut an 11 point lead down to 3, they still had trouble getting baskets on key possessions. check out this sequence to end the game. we'll start at the under 4 timeout; NU has the ball, down 60-55.
N - Shurna throws up (and misses) a fadeaway three at the shot clock buzzer
T - missed three
N - Moore misses a long three
T - offensive foul
N - NU disoriented, calls timeout. Mirkovic airballs an 18 footer, but Coble hustles to keep possession. Shurna misses another long three, another NU offensive rebound. Thompson makes layup, NU trails 60-57
T - alley oop dunk, NU trails 62-57
N - Shurna backdoor layup, NU trails 62-59
T - missed shot
N - NU disoriented again, calls timeout. Mirkovic sets a bunch of ball screens for Thompson while the other three guys stand around. what looks like a broken play ends up with Moore getting a pretty open look at the tying three. miss. game over.
and thus ends, with a resounding thud, what many are calling one of the most successful basketball seasons in Northwestern history. it sure didn't feel that way.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Jerome Jordan doing what we feared he would
So far, a blackout
Sunday, March 15, 2009
NIT matchup is set
let's hope someone offers Willie $100 to take down Tulsa's Captain Cane.
and yes, i know it's just the NIT, but considering there was no ESPNU to televise the selection show back in '99, at least we get to see Northwestern's name on TV in a bracket.
The List shrinks by four
Friday, March 13, 2009
Maybe we could get Billy Gillespie
i understand where those comments are coming from, but i refuse to accept mediocrity for this basketball program. whatever excuses you can come up with for its lack of success, the NU football program has proven otherwise.
however, i am very content not being quite as blood-thirsty as some fan bases. yes, Kentucky, i'm talking about you.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Now, we wait
but we'll worry about that later. for now here are my observations from today's loss.
at the beginning of NU's second-half run to get back in it, there was a timeout about 5 minutes into the second half. according to the delightful Charissa Thompson, BC didn't do much talking during that timeout. he simply asked his players what they saw and what they thought needed to be done. an interesting strategy, but it worked. NU gradually cut into a 12 point deficit before taking a 49-47 lead with 7:47 left.
but from there, they just stopped playing offensively. Coble was limited to two points in the second half and was in foul trouble down the stretch. add that to Moore's misses, and you're not left with much. from that 7:47 mark, NU didn't score again until there were 51 seconds left and they were down by 12.
Northwestern actually got to the bonus midway through the second half but couldn't take advantage. Nash missed two free throws when they were down one with under five left, and they didn't attempt another until thirty seconds left. the Wildcats were terrified in the paint on offense, and even when they did go up, they did so weakly. Minnesota finished with 11 blocks but it felt like more.
with under three minutes left, NU down three, Moore drove the lane and threw a pass out of bounds. Gus Johnson responded by accurately describing the Wildcats as "athletically challenged"
although Westbrook finished with only 14, he took control of the game in the last four minutes. it was similar to NU's struggles with Evan Turner. when Northwestern faces an athletic, take-charge player, they can't stop him from making baskets in key situations. and at the other end, NU has no one close to that level who can score for them.
and because this post wouldn't be complete without a non sequitur, i swear i heard Gus say something about Blake Hoffarber playing for the Canadian national team. that doesn't seem right because i know he's a minnesota native. and of course, i know this because when Blake Hoffarber was in high school he did this. which he then followed up with this in last year's big ten tournament.
'Cats make a little run
make that a two point game as Nash steals for a layup. NU playing with a lot of confidence all of a sudden.
hard to tell how many people are in the building. i think there are a fair amount of empty seats but both fan bases are pretty vocal.
after Thompson FTs, now we're tied at 47.
Halftime: NU trails 31-25
but look on the bright side... no shot clock violations!
Finally someone else scores
A bit of a slow start
Live blogging today
i think i've done live blogging only twice before, so hopefully this afternoon's game goes a little better than this one or this one.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
NU more patient than other programs
the two headlines that caught my eye this morning were the coaching changes announced at Elon and High Point. it is important to mention that both these schools share NU's distinction of having never made the NCAA tournament, although their misery has been much shorter, since both schools entered Division I just nine years ago. but even without that basketball heritage, the AD's at both places decided six seasons of losing was enough. at High Point, they guy they threw out even had a winning record.
how is it that Northwestern can sit idly through debacles like last season and not even think about making a change? granted, it would be illogicial and unreasonable to replace Carmody after this season. after all, this will be only the fourth-ever trip to the NIT in school history. but BC needs to be careful to avoid a regression next year. following the 1994 NIT berth, NU went 5-22 / 1-17 and lost 20 of its last 21 games. after the 1999 NIT season, the Wildcats went 5-25 / 0-16 and lost 20 of its last 21 games. Carmody will need to do something he hasn't before, and that is carry some wins over to the following season.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Meanwhile, some people refuse to let the dream die
NU finishes in 9th place
that makes seven times in Bill Carmody's nine seasons that NU has finished in 8th or worse place in the standings. despite Dave Revine's praise of the coach's ability to draw up out-of-bounds plays late in the game, Northwestern twice came up empty in the last twenty seconds when they had a chance to tie.
this L is especially costly, as Northwestern's schedule goes from what could have been Iowa and Illinois to what is now Minnesota and Michigan State. the best that the Wildcats can hope for is a home game or two in the NIT, but even that is not a lock.
Friday, March 06, 2009
This will all come to a screeching halt if they lose in Columbus
Thursday, March 05, 2009
No, Northwestern is not on the bubble (yet)
NU is 6-8 against teams 1-50 in the RPI. only 13 teams have as many or more top 50 wins than Northwestern, and all are virtual locks for the tournament. (for the record they are: Michigan St, Pittsburgh, Duke, Connecticut, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Louisville, Villanova, Arizona St, Purdue, Texas, California) sounds great, right?
but it's actually some of Northwestern's early wins that take away some of its luster. what is killing NU's computer numbers is the non-conference strength of schedule. six of those wins came against teams ranked over 195, including three against 300+ teams. the non-conference schedule ranks 226 in the country, which is a big factor in their current RPI of 70. Northwestern has no terrible losses but the worst L's on the resume right now were on the road to Iowa (116) and Stanford (109). the killer with those is not only are they bad teams, but picking up an additional road win or two would have been huge.
meanwhile, the big ten standings are in complete chaos. if Indiana were to win at Wisconsin (plus a number of other very possible outcomes), we could have six teams tie for fourth place with 9-9 conference records. if that happens, the Big Ten will probably need to use all of its tiebreakers.
clearly, the game at Ohio State is a must-win. after that, NU would need at least one and maybe two wins in the conference tournament.