Northwestern faces Michigan State Sunday at 11 am ct (BTN) in what should be a low scoring game featuring the conference’s two best scoring defenses. We’ll break down that game later tonight. Today, though, I wanted to highlight my favorite LTP-era basketball win – Northwestern’s 2009 upset over Michigan State at the Breslin Center (last year’s Kohl Center win is right up there for different reasons).
If you want to jog your memory, indulge yourself for eight minutes on what the Kevin Coble-Juice Thompson-Craig Moore era ‘Cats under Bill Carmody was like:
Kevin Coble was just silly that night and Craig Moore was draining 24-footers and talking smack to the Sparty student section. NU had that swagger and you thought, “man, we’re just one player away from this team contending for the Big Dance”.
That 2008-2009 team would end up starting a four year run of consecutive NIT appearances, by far the best run of NU hoops since the 1960s, won-loss record-wise. The ‘Cats flirted with winning seasons after hitting the dregs of hoops in 2008, when Carmody, in year eight won one conference game and managed to keep his job.
Kevin Coble led Northwestern in scoring in rebounding his first three seasons and with John Shurna primed for a breakout junior season in 2010-2011, the ‘Cats seemed teed up to make a run for their first ever NCAA Tournament. Fans were salivating for the Coble senior year team – and then, one of the biggest disappointments in NU basketball history happened. Kevin Coble quit the team in late July over a dispute with Bill Carmody regarding his foot injury and a trip overseas with the ‘Cats team for a summer hoops trip.
Northwestern would persevere and have the school’s best post-season run in history – a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals – but most of us were left to wonder “what if…”? What if Kevin Coble had played that senior season? Would that have been THE year we broke through? We’ll never know.
What we do know is that NU flirted with “non-losing seasons”, Wildcataganda for the .500 mark, a feat that Carmody accomplished in 2003-2004 in the Big Ten, something that hadn’t been done since 1969. However, the fan base became somewhat split over lobbying for a change at the head coaching position and others imploring to keep Bill Carmody. I felt and still believe it was the right call and that Bill Carmody was an important link in raising the bar from an awful program to an average one.
Carmody was nothing but class in his departure and I’m starting to wonder if he has become a CIA operative he’s been so quiet. Never a word to anyone after his departure. Not to the media and unlike so many of his coaching brethren, he didn’t show up AS a media member. I’d love to know if any of you know about Bill Carmody’s whereabouts.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t make the analogy from Carmody’s record to Pat Fitzgerald’s record. Fitz has been consistent in getting NU to the NIT equivalent of football bowls. You could make the exception that the Gator Bowl – a New Year’s Day name bowl is the one exception. In season seven, Fitz had one conference win, followed by a rough season eight. It begs the question if Fitz, like Carmody, has reached the ceiling for NU football. He’s never had six wins in conference and NU football hasn’t even sniffed a legit run at the Big Ten Championship. That’s a post for another day.
Today, I’ll be watching NU battle Michigan State and then tuning in to see how the women do hosting the Spartans at 2pm ct as well. I’ll also be wondering “what if….?”