R-E-G-G-I-E & The Seniors
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Three Wildcat seniors, Reggie Hearn, Alex Marcotullio and Jared Swopshire will take their bows and collect a framed uniform tonight at 5:40 pm ct before two of them take the floor to face Penn State at 6pm ct on ESPNU in their final Welsh-Ryan appearance.
Indiana’s Jordan Hulls’ senior night speech earned quite a bit of airtime in part for letting the tears flow. Tonight, I believe I will fill like that out of fan frustration and empathy for these guys. The vision we had for this night back in September was Drew Crawford would be the fourth guy on the floor and this would be a packed house in a game that we would be favored to win with potentially an NCAA Tournament berth waiting in the wings. Instead, the ‘Cats are battling for a 10th place seed in the B1G Tournament and barring the biggest 4-day miracle in Big Ten history, will be sitting home this postseason.
Let’s start with Jared Swopshire. Man, I really was starting to love this kid. The Louisville graduate was to be a one year wonder piece to help solve our rebounding challenges and add post presence. After a relatively slow start, Swop found his rhythm and became the bellweather for our team. Simply put, if Swop played well, we won. When he didn’t, we lost. If you want proof of his value, look no further than the Iowa game in which he injured his knee and ended his career. We haven’t won a game since. Had Swop played four seasons in Evanston we’d be talking about him as one of the alltime NU great forwards we’ve had. Instead, his partial year in Evanston seems to symbolize the frustration of an unfathomable string of injuries. I don’t personally know any of these guys, but I get the sense that Swop is just a stand-up guy who is well liked. I admired his play and am grateful he gave it a chance in Evanston. Thank you Swop!
Alex Marcotullio. I was somewhat surprised to learn he is third all-time in games played at Northwestern behind only John Shurna and Michael Thompson with 125 games. My first memory of Marcotullio is from the Chicago Classic tournament several years ago when we knocked off Iowa State and Notre Dame. He was bombing three pointers in clutch situations. Often overmatched athletically in B1G play, he was a grit guy for us. He never backed down and seemed to step up in many moments when we needed a spark. He improved his game from a little-to-no-defense guy who was a spot-up three point shooter, to someone who became a bit more balanced.
Alex is eighth all-time at NU in three pointers made, yet there is one image of his that I believe best represents his time in Evanston. You’ve seen it at least fifty times. Don’t call the Better Business Bureau for false advertising, but by now you’ve figured out the Northwestern men’s basketball ticket spot is a bit of a fraud. In the ticket spot, the video is beautiful in its simplicity and everything it captures. The shot opens with Alex winding up from well beyond the three point line against Ohio State last year in Evanston. The student section in the background is packed purple and the clock is winding down. Gus Johnson’s voiceover is calling the play and “swish” the shot goes in. The video cuts to an aerial shot of a court rush as the Wildcat students pour on to the hardwood. Johnson booms the Wildcat marketing slogan as if spoonfed…”Chicago’s BIG. TEN. TEAM” . Well, any regular knows that we actually LOST that Ohio State game just three seconds later. The court rush came from an upset over Michigan State. I don’t really care, because I like the emotion the spot creates, but I feel that encapsulates Alex’s time. He’s hit big shots and played a part to get us SO close. Alex, thank you, for your hard work and dedication.
Then there is fan favorite Reggie Hearn. By now, we all know the story of how the walk-on from Ft. Wayne, Indiana transformed from a guy who barely played in his first two seasons to the MVP of the team by his senior season. Hearn has that warrior, never quit gene thing. I love the guy. It is one of the lost joys of college basketball – getting to see a player grow and develop over four years. He played a total of 72 minutes through his sophomore year and has started every game he’s appeared in since then. He’s also averaged double digits during that stretch. A few games stick out for me in the Hearn file. He has been the man in our back-to-back road wins in Champaign, simply carrying us to victory on his shoulders both times. And then, there was the Purdue game this year. It was one of the most dominant halves of basketball I’ve seen by an NU player since John Shurna’s junior year. Hearn couldn’t miss. He poured in 20 points and was simply unstoppable. His patented back door lay-ups mixed in with spot-up three pointers and creation of shots by rolling off picks and pulling up from mid-range. It was an absolute thing of beauty and led us to one of the more decisive wins over a B1G team we’ve had in a few years. In walk-on annals at Northwestern, Reggie Hearn has set the basketball bar and joins an elite group with the likes of LB Barry Gardner and WR Zeke Markshausen as alltime great walk-ons who earned scholarships. Thank you Reggie!
I feel like we’ve earned the right as fans to get a victory tonight against the one-win Penn State squad. In a season where worst case personnel scenarios became worse than the worst, I’d love to see the final game played by the half of the senior class left standing enable them to walk off winners. Regardless, all three are exactly that. Thanks for representing us with class and never giving up. Go ‘Cats!
NCAA Tourney No Go Narcissism
I’ve been following SippinOnPurple all week as they track every single team in the country that has never reached the NCAA Tournament. Not just the major conferences (that would be us), but from Bryant University from my hometown (Smithfield, RI – perhaps this Tourney thing is because of me?) to Cal-State and every Podunk school in between, their “Never Made The Tournament” series is hilarious and this group, of any, should appreciate it. In the misery loves company category there are already 10 schools who have ended their seasons without breaking their respective 0-fer streaks of never having gone dancing.
LTP Purple Pledge
After an amazing jump start to our NEW season ticket goal of 200 tickets, we’ve slowed down a bit. Joseph P. used the bundle technique by adding +1 to his existing lot of season tickets and we are now at 29 total to date (in three days). I should remind you, season ticket renewal deadline is March 31. Normally this might elicit a “so what, are they not going to hook me up if I call in July?” and the answer is maybe. Keep in mind with Ohio State and Michigan on the slate, season ticket holders get first dibs at buying extra tickets. If you can’t convince anyone this year to buy season tickets, you should be buying extra tickets for that game and bringing Wildcat fans-to-be and deck them out in purple. The single easiest way for us to pack the place purple for those two games is for the collective lot of season tickets to gobble up +2 or +4. You can bet whatever guest you bring will be begging you to pay you at least face for that experience. And another idea fragment that will turn in to a future post is born! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your successful season ticket stories and we’ll give you a shoutout!
Pro Day Pause
Northwestern hosted the area’s NFL pro day on Tuesday and we’ll be providing commentary on it this weekend. The short version, based on multiple reports, is the Wildcat graduates didn’t exactly kill it. I don’t expect any Wildcats to be on the board in this draft.