Saturday, March 15, 2008

if you're feeling sad for IU, consider Northwestern's basketball history

From Mike Lopresti in USA Today (hat tip: C-J), the sad story of Northwestern basketball-- Minnesota's first victim in the Big Ten tournament...

Could we pause from the weekend's discussion about bubble teams, RPI rankings and projected seedings to express compassion for the needy?

Namely, Northwestern. Home again early, with no place to go.

In case you weren't riveted on the game, the Wildcats lost to Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament 55-52. They left with their futility intact.

The NCAA tournament is 70 years old this March. Northwestern has never appeared in it.

You can look it up. Northwestern hosted the first national championship game in 1939. The Wildcats helped start the big dance.

But they have never been invited. Not once.

All 10 other teams in the Big Ten have played in the NCAA tournament. All 12 in the ACC and SEC, all 16 in the Big East, all 14 in the Atlantic 10, everyone in the Pac-10 and Big 12, all eight in the Ivy League.

Eight different schools from the state of Illinois have made at least one trip. A total of 296 teams nationwide had done it, through 2007.

But never Northwestern. It is probably fitting, they're just up the lakeshore from the Cubs....

And no breakthrough seems imminent. Thursday's loss to the Gophers ended the season at 8-22, and 1-18 against Big Ten opponents. (In the interest of gender equity, it should be noted the Wildcat women went 5-26 and 1-18. So when it comes to adversity, Northwestern is in full compliance with Title IX)....

"You can only go up," coach Bill Carmody mentioned after the Minnesota game.

No, he could go out. A man with his record has some media critics calling for his head, but Carmody is not exactly unique in having trouble being successful in Evanston. The last time a coach left with a winning record was 1950.

Plus, Carmody was a highly accomplished coach at Princeton. He didn't just show up at Northwestern eight years ago and turn stupid.

Still, you wonder why Northwestern can't at least have the occasional good-news bump. The football team went to the Rose Bowl not that long ago. They can't find five basketball players with good SAT scores?

The other brainiac schools find a way. Duke is basketball royalty. Stanford went to the Final Four 10 years ago. Penn and Princeton have both been to Final Fours out of the Ivy League.

Meanwhile, Northwestern suffers in solitude, either from lack of recruiting or lack of administrative support or lack of vision or lack of everything....


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