The quality of basketball player recruited by Northwestern has increased dramatically in recent years. Still, the Wildcats have yet to see their first NCAA tournament bid.
In 11 years under Carmody, NU has gone from perennial cellar-dwellers to back-to-back 20-win campaigns. As Jay Sharman of Lake the Posts describes it, fans are left in two distinct groups when assessing Carmody's performance.
"The two camps are the half-full folks who point to an unprecedented three straight NIT appearances and first ever 20-win seasons that he's now accomplished in back-to-back years," he said. "The more jaded folks like myself are pointing to a joke of a non-conference schedule philosophy that inflates the win total. And, more importantly, 11 seasons in and we really have only moved the needle from cellar dwellar to slightly below average in conference. We're competitive, but most of us question Carmody's ability to get us to break through to the big dance for the first time ever."
Current assistant coach and former player Tavaras Hardy is largely responsible for raising the bar.
"NU didn't recruit anybody resembling a Big Ten athlete in the time before Hardy came back to recruit for his former coach," Sippin' on Purple's Rodger Sherman said. "Since we've been able to land some genuinely talented players such as John Shurna, Hardy's former AAU player Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb - all of whom, you know, are, like, good at basketball."In the class of 2011, the biggest fish is Tre Temps from Reagan High in San Antonio. The 6-foot, 2-inch guard chose Northwestern over Minnesota and the Ivy League.
"From what I've seen Demps has the right type of game to give NU another player who is something of a mid-range threat to go along with JerShon Cobb," Ryan Lindley of Welsh-Ryan Ramblings said.
Demps is touted as a "cerebral" player with a "high basketball I.Q." by ESPN, which means he's the kind of kid who gets recruited by Northwestern and the Ivy League and not Ohio State -- wink, wink. But that's not to say that Demps isn't skilled. He is and should be a good edition to the Wildcat team.
The player who may be competing with Demps for the starting point guard spot has already been given a cute little nickname by the Wildcat faithful. David Sobolewski, affectionately referred to as "Sobo," is a 5 foot, 11 inch commit from Lisle, Ill.
Sobolewski may actually end up sharing the court with Demps from time to time in the Princeton offense, as he is expected to develop into a solid scorer.
"He really impressed with his All-State play and even played his most eye-popping games against the elite talent," Sharman said.
Shurna is testing the NBA draft waters, but hasn't hired an agent. Most Wildcat fans believe he'll be back and that's probably not wishful thinking.
"If Shurna goes pro I'll be shocked," Lindley said. "If he goes pro Northwestern could start Turner or walk-on Reggie Hearn or Carmody himself or me and the the result will be the same; they'll win about eight games."
"A world where John Shurna does not come back is not a good one," Sherman said. "Most likely, we'd just be screwed."
The other official commit in the 2011 class is Mike Turner, a 6-foot, 8-inch forward from Chicago. Turner is probably a bit of a project player who may be redshirted.
The 'Cats are also waiting on a decision from 6-10 John Cannon, who will make his decision later today, to round out the year's crop.
With these kinds of players, an NCAA tournament bid is now at least in sight.
"(We're) probably we're never going to make the NCAA Tournament forever and ever and ever," Sherman said.
"But I think that if they do keep recruiting the caliber of player Hardy has been bringing in over the past few years, a tournament bid isn't out of the question. With what we were getting in the past, it was."
Read Jay Sharman at Lake the Posts, Rodger Sherman at Sippin' on Purple and Ryan Lindley at Welsh-Ryan Ramblings.