Northwestern men’s basketball is known across the country as the only Power 5 conference school to never make an NCAA Tournament. They’ve tried for what seems like endless years to have success and make it to the tournament. They’ve come so close so many times. But it seems like every time they get close, something happens and they don’t make it.
Whether it’s the referees missing calls, missed shots at the last second, or injuries costing the Wildcats the game, every year in March the Wildcats have been at home on Selection Sunday.
Bill Carmody was supposed to be The Coach.
Bill Carmody was brought to Northwestern in 2000 with his Princeton offense to lead the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament. After a few years of losing records, he lead the Wildcats to 8-8 in Big Ten Conference play. Prior to the 2003-2004 season when this record was achieved, the Wildcats had not had a winning record in conference play since the 1967-1968 season under Larry Glass, when they finished fourth in the Big Ten. Bill Carmody lead the Wildcats to four consecutive NIT appearances between 2008 and 2012. He recruited Michael Thompson, Alex Olah, Dave Sobolewski, and many other players who went on to have an impact on the program.
Bill Carmody was fired after the end of the 2012- 2013 season after leading the Wildcats to a 4-14 record in conference play and an 11th place finish in the Big Ten rankings. Two years later, Bill Carmody was named the new head coach at Holy Cross for the 2015-2016 season. He lead the Crusaders to the Patriot League Championship. They won the championship and with that win Bill Carmody punched his ticket to the Big Dance. Prior to the 2015-2016 season, his last NCAA Tournament appearance as a coach was the 1997-1998 season with Princeton University.
2011 was supposed to be The Year
Bill Carmody brought the Wildcats so close. He lead them to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, where they lost to Ohio State in overtime 67-61. If they would have won that game, the Wildcats would have had a chance to make their first NCAA Tournament. But instead, the Wildcats faced a crushing defeat in overtime and missed on the Tournament once again.
The 2015-2016 season was supposed to be “The Season”
After two years at the helm of the Northwestern basketball program, most people thought Northwestern would make their first NCAA Tournament appearance. With veteran guys Tre Demps and Alex Olah leading the team, Northwestern had a clear chance. Chris Collins had a core group of guys behind them too- Vic Law, Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey, Gavin Skelly, Sanjay Lumpkin, Nate Taphorn, and a strong freshman class- Northwestern had a chance. They took a preseason trip to Spain to get in extra practices and playing time. All the signs pointed the right way
Vic Law was supposed to be “The Guy”
Northwestern needed a lot of things to go their way in the 2015-2016 in order to make the NCAA Tournament. Chris Collins’ best recruit, Vic Law, was supposed to play a major role in that success.
Until Northwestern announced before the season that Vic Law would sit out the season with a shoulder injury.
Vic Law ended his freshman season on a high note. He played a major role in the success they saw at the end of the 2014-2015 season. His ability to play all over the floor was crucial to Northwestern’s success.
His injury, along with Joey Van Zegren’s, and Alex Olah’s meant Northwestern lost considerable depth right before conference play. Although Dererk Pardon came in and played well, the presence of those three players was missed.
So here we are...
Chris Collins is beginning his fourth year at the helm. Northwestern hasn’t made the postseason yet. Tre Demps and Alex Olah are gone, but Vic Law is back along with a stacked recruiting class.
Is this year “The Year”?
Wildcat fans, I hate to break your hearts, but I don’t think this year is going to be “The Year”. The ‘cats are close. Very close. This season should be an NIT season for Northwestern. I think after the 2017 class graduates and the young players develop, the Wildcats will have a chance in the 2017-2018 season.
Chris Collins is ready. His staff is ready. His team is antsy. Northwestern is ready. Northwestern fans are ready. The NCAA Tournament is close.
We’ve waited this long. What’s a few more years?