First it was JerShon Cobb, and his academic issues, now it’s Drew Crawford.
The Northwestern Wildcats star forward is done for the year with a shoulder injury. The school announced Crawford will undergo surgery for a torn labrum, which he suffered sometime in September. You may recall I kept saying something was wrong starting in the Maryland Terrapins game all the way through the Baylor Bears game. Sadly, my hunch was a reality and now Northwestern is in a major bind.
The 2012-2013 season had potential to be special for the Wildcats. Sure they lost all time leading scorer John Shurna to graduation but almost everyone else came back and they added Louisville Cardinals transfer Jared Swopshire. This was supposed to be a deeper team that would also rebound at a much higher rate. Once the Cobb news happened though it almost started a “runaway train” in Evanston.
Freshman Sanjay Lumpkin got mono. TCU Horned Frogs transfer Nikola Cerina suffered a severe high ankle sprain. And finally, senior Alex Marcutullio‘s back started acting up again. I used to not believe in curses but perhaps Northwestern is different. They’ve never made the NCAA tournament and yet have been agonizingly close the last couple of years. True torture for those who “bleed purple”.
Now as we look forward, Northwestern is at a crossroads. It’s likely this news means head coach Bill Carmody will get another year. Before Crawford went down, it was likely that without an NCAA tournament bid this season Carmody would be gone. Now athletic director Jim Phillips has an excuse, or reason, to keep Carmody around for a 13th season.
He’s got a 4 star point guard in Jaren Sina coming to Evanston next year. He’s the highest rated recruit in school history. When you add him to a back court with Cobb, and probably Crawford, you could have something special to work with However, that’s a year off. The Wildcats have to work with what they have now.
The main effect I see from Crawford’s removal from the starting lineup is more time for Tre Demps. The athletic combo guard showed me something, albeit in mostly garbage time, against the Butler Bulldogs. We all knew he was athletic but his shot was on as well. If he can shoot even 33% from 3, the Wildcats might have someone that can actually create on their own. You’ve got to have that when you play the physical defenses in the Big Ten. Passing the ball around the perimeter and jacking up 3s just won’t cut it.
Additionally, Swopshire is going to have to shoulder (pardon the pun) more of the load. He came to Northwestern to get more playing time and become a feature of the offense. Prove it to me. He is versatile and can get to the rim. Assuming his shot continues to improve, he could actually be a legit scorer come conference season.
I feel for all Northwestern fans. This is a gut punch. But you just can’t wallow in it. The season goes on. If anything, this news comes at the best possible time. Northwestern will have over a week before they face a Stanford Cardinal team that should be in the mix for an NCAA bid. Get a rotation set and go forward. Something special could still happen.
Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts.