So, Northwestern didn't make the NCAA Tournament. It wasn't particularly close. I mean, it was, in the sense that NU could have made the tournament with any number of games that they lost by one point, two points, or after having been tied in regulation. But it wasn't, in the sense that at least 12 teams made the NIT ahead of Northwestern, and that the selection committee revealed Northwestern wasn't one of the six they were considering for a potential last spot.
That said, it's pretty much the closest Northwestern has ever gotten. Although it's the same seed as last season, Northwestern was alive for longer and seems to me to have a better resume than last year. So, here's a list of reasons why I want Northwestern to win this consolation tournament - and why I think they can.
1. The murder, it is not in Northwestern's bracket: Let's look at Kenpom rankings for this region:
- (err, disregard the dueling numbered bulletpoints) Washington: 67
- Dayton: 64
- Oregon: 62
- Northwestern: 58
- Akron: 79
- LSU: 98
- Iowa: 87
- Texas-Arlington: 110
Yes, by what I consider the most accurate and valuable rankings system available in college hoops, Northwestern is the best team in its region, despite being a four-seed. Therefore, those rankings would select Northwestern as the likely winner in neutral court games. Sadly, these won't be neutral court games. Barring upsets, Northwestern will only get one home-court game, and therefore will have to win a game it won't be favored in by those rankings in either Washington, Oregon, or Dayton. (The Flyers open on the road so as not to conflict with the First Four, but I assume that will be over with by the time Northwestern would meet them in a hypothetical tournament quarterfinal.) The Wildcats also have a better Kenpom ranking than a second one-seed - Tennessee - and have beaten a third - Seton Hall - in a neutral site game. There's a lot of evenly matched teams in this tournament, and Northwestern is just as good as pretty much any of them.
2. I feel better about liking Northwestern basketball than I did Thursday night. This is actually more of an aside, but I'm very, very, very embarrassed about what I wrote the other night. In case you couldn't tell, I was drunk - to everybody who said it was poignant or well-written or whatever, a) thanks, it means a lot b) I wrote it, without meaningful spelling or grammatical errors, mind you, when I was drunk enough that any reasonable bartender probably would've refused to serve me, so you should get on my level - and somewhere in the writing process I included a lot of frankly unnecessary personal details. I linked it in somehow, but the point is it was stuff I didn't particularly want anybody to read, which is unfortunate, because instead of nobody reading it, more people read it than any post I've ever written, which is sort of the opposite. And even then, it's okay when anonymous internet people like many of you read it, but, well, it's weird and highly embarrassing when people you know personally read it. So I feel dumb for that. But I justified it by thinking about how maybe it helped: it seems we were all in a pretty bad mood, and needed to let some stuff out. If anybody enjoyed reading that, I'm not going to gripe about the fact I included some awkward stuff I didn't want my friends to read. So, like I said, everyone who got back saying they enjoyed, thanks. I - and hopefully many of you - had some depression to get out, and I sit here on Monday morning as someone pulling hard for Northwestern.
3. Showing we deserved it: It's lame to want to win the consolation tournament to prove you're worthy of the real thing, but after this much frustration, Northwestern has to feel that way. We're bitter. Northwestern wasn't worthy of a tournament bid. Although Northwestern had the chances to earn victories, close game after close game came up short and NU's resume featured only one win against a real quality opponent. But still, bracketologists had Northwestern in on Selection Sunday. (Not sure what Jerry Palm was smoking, but the company that airs the tournament pays him to smoke it, apparently, so he's not irreputable for inhaling.) Let's show recruits and fans why we were close, and should've been in, and yes, why we think we'll be in next year.
4. Something for John Shurna: I imagine Shurna is bummed after four years of coming close. I imagine he wouldn't mind bringing home some hardware. Also, the longer the kid plays, the higher his record-setting point total is.
5. Bill Carmody: I think he's a good coach, but I think his time at Northwestern should be done, for reasons I'll explain more fully at a later point but for now, I'll just say I think keeping him says Northwestern doesn't care about making the tourney, which tells fans and recruits Northwestern doesn't care about making the tourney, which is an awful message to send. If he wins the NIT, he probably won't be fired. This won't be optimal, but on a scale of "things I want", where "making the NCAA Tournament is a 10" and "merely not being chased across a field of grass by giant spiders only to realize THE GRASS IS MADE OF LAVA" is a 1, "firing Bill Carmody" is a 1.4 and "winning the NIT" is a 1.6. (I want both those things more than a little bit, but making the NCAA's was only a ten. i probably should've made the scale to 1,000 or something.) My point is, although I think Carmody should go, I would be happier with a world where NU won the NIT and Carmody stayed than one where we didn't and he was fired. I could go for an Ed DeChellis-esque scenario where NU wins the NIT and rides that to making the NCAA Tournament the next year, and then leaves the school to coach a military academy in the Patriot League. To be honest, in an ideal world, I see Carmody as a freedom fighter who goes around the country coaching Never-Made-the-Tourney schools to their first victory, starting with NU and then brings Army, William and Mary, the Citadel, and St. Francis (NY) dancing in a brilliant five-year stretch culminating with him reaching a zen-like Nirvana state, exiting the never-ending karma cycle of college basketball coaching death and rebirth for a life of peaceful oenophilia. Somehow don't see that happening.
6. Winning is fun: You should always enter the NIT with a veil of calculated nonchalance: making sure you don't care enough that losing would suck. I think we have that here: we got through the bad stuff, the depression, and the letting thousands of people read drunken ramblings about our breakup on the internet. (Wait, you guys did that too, right? Oh, crap.) Northwestern could lose to Akron tomorrow night and well, on the scale of "things I don't want", where "the room being slightly too warm, but not that warm that it's uncomfortable" is a 1 and "being chased across a field of grass by giant spiders when you realize THE GRASS IS MADE OF LAVA" is a 10, "losing like the millionth game of the season in overtime to get knocked out of the NCAA bubble in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament" is like an 8.7, and "losing to Akron in the first round of the NIT" is like a 2. Again, scale issues: I'd probably equate losing that game to Minnesota to merely being in a field of lava-grass without the spiders. (I hate spiders, most of all giant ones.) That said, it's always okay to be excited about winning. Last year, I didn't care at all about the NIT. But I was hype after wins over Milwaukee and Boston College. Will people make fun of us for getting excited about a deep NIT run, possibly winning? Sure, but, well, "let us have this" is something I would say to those people.
7. We've never done it: Remember, everybody, last year's quarterfinals appearance was THE BEST POSTSEASON OUTING IN NORTHWESTERN HISTORY. That's so embarrassing I immediately feel like telling even more of my friends intimate details of my personal life I didn't feel comfortable sharing with them via drunken blog post just to make up for how relatively un-embarrassed I feel by not being a basketball team that has never gone past the quarterfinals of the consolation tournament. (Yeah, I'm gonna feel pretty stupid about this for a while.) Let's change that to a little bit less embarrassing.
8. I actually get to watch it: I've spent the last two years on ASB trips to a communist nation without much access to anything American. Last year, I met a guy on the street in Havana who took great pride in his ability to watch NBA games through pirated satellite at his friend's house, and he actually impressed me with his knowledge of the league. He clearly watched, like, all the time. However, his knowledge of college was limited to the awareness of "the March Magness" and the fact that LeBron James went to Ohio. (I assume he meant Ohio State, which, is also wrong.) Needless to say, I didn't see Northwestern's overtime loss to Washington State. For the first time in a while, I'm stateside, so, great! I also didn't make it back from Crystal Lake in time to attend Northwestern's first-rounder last year, so I finally get to see NIT floor stickers.
Well, that's it. Actual analysis and judging from things lately a video of me re-enacting "Marvin's Room" by Drake by drunk-dialing exes and telling them that we should leave their significant others so we can be together later.