With 60% of the B1G season over, let's take a look at the season so far, factually.
B1G Home: 2-3 (Minnesota, Purdue)
B1G Away: 2-4 (PSU, Illinois)
AP/Coaches Top 25 (When played): 2-4 (Illinois, Minnesota)
AP/Coaches Top 25 (Current): 1- 4 (Minnesota)
Utilizing RPI via www.teamrankings.com/ncb/rpi/ as of 02/11/13, NU's performance is as follows:
RPI Top 50: 2 - 4 (Illinois (Away), Minnesota (Home))
RPI Top 100: 3 - 9 (Wins Baylor (H), Illinois (Away), Minnesota (Home))
Strength of Schedule: 25
Good Wins: (better than RPI 50): Illinois (Away), Minnesota (Home)
Bad Losses: (out of RPI 100): None
Remaining: 4 home; 3 away
AP/Coaches (Current): 3 (@ OSU, home OSU, @ MSU)
It is reasonable to say that NU will not make the tournament for a thirteenth consecutive year under Carmody's leadership. My original prediction was 6-12, and I feel that will end up being the case. I predict NU will beat Illinois (home), and PSU (home). However, that still does not put the NU into the NIT unless NU gets to the B1G Tournament semifinals (2 wins), something that has NEVER happened in the Carmody era. While many of you dislike that I root against this team so that NU is forced to make a change, is going 6-12/7-11 and bringing back Carmody really what you want. At least with NU not making the NIT, the conversation to get rid of Carmody is a much more simple conversation. Howe can someone assume that you are moving the program forward when you can't even be in the top 8 or 9 in a conference of twelve?
Like many sports fans of teams, people look to next year as the year of improvement/success/reaching new goals, etc. But, let's be honest, if you could take Hearn/Swopshire/Marcotuillo or Crawford/Cobb/Sina, who would you take? While I think Drew Crawford is a solid player, brings leadership, and can have some phenomenal games, is he that much better than Hearn? To me, Reggie Hearn is one of the grittiest, toughest, and most exciting NU players I've seen. Swopshire vs. Cobb, well, I don't think this is that debatable given Swop's defense, toughness, and size. While Cobb can be amazing at times, his propensity towards injuries and bad games just doesn't make him as relaible. Now, with Sina vs. Marcotuillo, I could lean towards Sina based on potential. But, the overall point remains, this teams brings back a great deal of their players, many coming off injuries, redshirts, etc, but is next year's team dramatically better than this one? Perhaps, one or two games better, but is that enough for NU to make the tournament. I don't think so. I've seen a team with Crawford and Cobb coupled with an all-time NU great and a 1st-team All-B1G player (Shurna), and yet, they still failed to make the tournament, so I don't see how 'next year is going to be amazing.'
National Signing Day I give Pat Fitzgerald and staff tons of credit for a) bringing in NU's best class ever, b) bringing in a top six B1G class (as ranked by most recruiting services), and c) making recruiting the top priority it should be. However, while I do see NU continuing it's upward trend, I have a hard time seeing how NU will win a B1G championship in Fitz's tenure. With the strength of UM and OSU, the B1G championship game, the possibility of more conference games (yes!), I really don't see NU breaking to that level. Now, with this class, I could see NU going to the Capital One Bowl in a great year, but still no B1G titles. To me, that would be a failure; however, I do realize that majority of NU fans would be more than content with that being the peak and would not call Fitzgerald a failure for not bringing NU a B1G championship.
Dr. Jim Phillips While I strongly disagree with Chad's assertion that JP is the best AD in the country, I absolutely credit him for being an INCREDIBLE marketer, promoter, and leader for NU athletics. He is by far the best AD during my NU time (Rick Taylor and Mark Murphy), and he has brought an excitement to NU athletics that has never been there. While I still despise the premise of 'Chicago's B1G team,' I do like many ideas that he has executed such as Wrigley games, ND series, better non-conf football, facilities upgrades, etc, etc, etc. He has done an incredible job.
NU Facilities fundraising First off, a HUGE THANK YOU, to the four SOP posters that let me know that they donated to NU athletics via the link I provided earlier. You are awesome for doing so, and I really appreciate you letting me know. NU is at almost $70 million donated, so it's clearly an effort that is going very, very well. Without giving up too much insider information, I do want to share some personal experiences while helping fund raise on a volunteer basis for this. I have called approximately 25 donors who have given significant (i.e. over $5k/household/year), and many of them have been more than willing to give to this cause. What I do find interesting is how many of them reference the following a) Pat Fitzgerald's integrity, b) the Gator Bowl victory, c) NU's athletic progress in all sports, d) women's lacrosse, e) individual non-revenue sport they have a connection to (many people I call are N Club members), and f) how their donation will further NU's athletic and academic reputation. However, what I found incredible is NOT ONE PERSON mentioned NU basketball or Bill Carmody. It was as if the program doesn't exist, there is no mention of it, no questions about NU basketball facilities, nothing, not one word. Sure, I am just giving you my sample size of information (very small), but I found it more than alarming that no one cared. I've said this over and over, the Gator Bowl victory showed many people, what is possible having the right coach at NU can do in terms of victory.
Academics I've had this conversation in-person with many NU alums, including LaxPuck, and while there is a feeling of 'agree to disagree' that usually ends this debates, I want to reiterate something. To all the NU fans that think NU's academic standards are significantly higher than Stanford, Vanderbilt, Duke, Notre Dame etc, please know that you don't have a single fact to support your case. While NU's student-athletes do very well in the classroom and that is something to be incredibly proud of, so do Stanford's, Duke's, ND's, etc, so please, please don't think we hang the mythical banner/championship of most intelligent student-athletes around. Also, why does it matter so much? I just don't get why if NU loses to Stanford in football or basketball, that NU fans try to be proud of that they have 'tougher admissions' standards for their athletes. It's not true, and if that's what you're interested in bragging about, don't watch the games, b/c win or lose, you will have something to say you 'won', too bad it's not the game that you went to watch.
Random Thoughts The reason I have not been posting as much is not due to a) having a baby or b) NU's performance, but rather, I just needed a break. I probably won't be posting as much going forward, but please know I'm reading!
I was speaking to a few readers of SOP, but not posters, and was thinking that if there are people that want to do a SOP meet-up to watch NU's women's lacrosse, men's tennis, or some other non-revenue sport, I would be glad to organize an event in the DC/Baltimore area.
Lastly, Go Cats!