Somehow Northwestern went from being an NCAA bubble team to being a #4-seed in the NIT. That means in the eyes of the NIT Northwestern hasn’t improved at all from last season where they were in as #4-seed. Even worse perhaps is the fact that Akron is probably a tougher draw than last year’s opponent Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
I’m disappointed by what happened today on a lot of levels. I think in all honesty that Northwestern not making the NCAA Tournament was the right thing. However, I think NU got screwed big time by the NIT committee. All the other so-called NCAA bubble teams were #1 or #2 seeds in the NIT. Northwestern was a #4. Also of note is the fact that NU at a #4 seed was the highest seed out of the Big Ten. Essentially, it seems despite the Big Ten’s great reputation all season that the NIT didn’t think much of the Big Ten. Even the NCAA Tournament didn’t seem as high on the Big Ten as some might have though with only six teams in the tournament and Purdue in as only a #10-seed.
I could complain more about where NU is, but I feel like anybody with a brain knows that having three teams from a very (maybe below) average Pac-12 ahead of three teams from the best conference in the country doesn’t make sense. The NIT claims they aren’t in it for money any more, but it sure looks like the higher seeds are those places where they’ll be more likely to sell tickets. Basically, the same thing happened to Northwestern last year and in the 2008-09 season when a team that was a borderline NCAA team was sent to play on the road at Tulsa in the NIT. I know a lot of Northwestern fans don’t like Bill Carmody and I’m starting think some of them might be on the NIT selection committee.
Since I brought up the topic let’s address the Carmody situation. The Chicago Tribune did a point-counterpoint as keep-fire recently which I thought was very fair. Personally, I’ve been more impressed by Carmody and how he held this year’s team together despite its major low points than I was in the past. However, I think this game is the one which could really determine his fate. NU’s players are going to be disappointed. If Carmody can rally them and have them come out and play well Northwestern should be able to squeak by a solid Akron team. Is winning one game enough for him to keep his job? Well, considering how totally hosed he was by the NIT committee I’m going to say yes. It’s not Carmody’s fault the garbage Pac-12 is apparently better than the Big Ten in the eyes of the people seeding the NIT. However, if Carmody drops this game to Akron he might as well pack his bags.
So what will happen in this game? I don’t exactly know, but I’m really worried from NU’s point of view. I just don’t see NU’s players having any enthusiasm for this game. I sure don’t. I’ll watch, but today has just crushed me. I was disappointed NU didn’t make the Big Dance, but I kind of assumed that was going to happen and I figured the silver lining was two or three NIT home games where John Shurna could shine and help lead the ‘Cats to New York. Instead, NU has one home game against a very good team with a talented 7-0 center in Zeke Marshall and six guys who make more than 34% of their three pointers. So basically NU doesn’t have a player who can defend Marshall in the post and the 1-3-1 is almost unplayable because Akron will hit open threes all day. The only hope NU has is that Akron won’t be able to defend the Princeton Offense given limited prep time. I’m worried though because I thought NU would be able to at least play free and loose as a high seed, but now they’re stuck in a dog fight which could go down to the wire and that hasn’t been good of late in Evanston.
Like I said above, I feel terrible because I feel like the NIT selection committee just screwed Northwestern and Bill Carmody personally because I don’t think Northwestern wins this game and I don’t see how Carmody keeps his job after that. I predict: Akron, 70 Northwestern, 65.