Bill Carmody has turned Northwestern basketball around the last four seasons. He brought them from a Big Ten laughingstock to a respectable team that has lived on the NCAA Tournament bubble since 2009. They have made the NIT the last four seasons after not making it to a post-season tournament since 1999. Northwestern fans appreciate this and have enjoyed the improvement.
However, the giant elephant in the room is still there. It is growing and becoming louder. That elephant, of course, is the fact that Northwestern has never made it to the NCAA Tournament. Never.
So, for Carmody to improve the team to respectable is nice, but it is about time the Wildcats take the next step.
Ten years ago, winning 20 games for Northwestern would be awesome. But, as success has grown, so have expectations. Northwestern, in order to continue their linear growth, must take the next step. That step is finally making it to the NCAA Tournament.
Carmody has been at Northwestern for twelves seasons, and his thirteenth season will be his most pressure packed one yet. The school had great patience with the coach, keeping him despite only one winning season in his first eight years. These days, coaches do not hang on thirteen years without having success in the NCAA Tournament, much less never making the tournament.
Personally, I applaud the school’s patience with their coach. Keeping a coach helps build stability, which leads to winning in many cases. Carmody has brought stability and has had some strong teams recently, but at the end of the day, there can only be one goal at a major college basketball program: making the NCAA Tournament.
That is why I believe that Carmody must make it to the NCAA Tournament this season or be in serious danger of losing his job. If Northwestern AD Jim Phillips keeps Carmody after not getting a NCAA Tournament bid this coming year, it will be to accept mediocrity. The last three seasons Northwestern has gone a combined record of 29-4 in non-conference play before their first conference game. Each of those years, the Wildcats came crashing back to earth by having losing conference records.
The 2012-13 Wildcats lost a big piece of their recent success in John Shurna. Their core will be led by senior guard Drew Crawford, who, with a good year, can make himself a legitimate NBA Draft prospect. Sophomore point guard David Sobolewski will also lead the offense and can have a breakout year. There is still talent in Evanston even after the loss of Shurna, but it will be Carmody’s job to lead the team to play well consistently and win conference games.
This year could be the same old story, as their non-conference schedule is once again very weak. If the tradition of racing off to a great start before being exposed in conference play repeats, Carmody must go. If Philips does not fire him, it will be accepting mediocrity.
This could be Carmody’s last chance at attaining what Northwestern never has done before. By season’s end, he will either be etching his name into Northwestern history or an unemployed coaches list.