By Dave Wischnowsky–
Death, Taxes and Northwestern.
Some things just never change.
And I’m wondering if they ever will.
Because, on Thursday night in Champaign, it was the same as it ever was for the sadsack Wildcats basketball program as it was crushed 88-63 by Illinois in a rout so lopsided it that made you wonder if Mikel Leshoure had started shooting hoops for the Illini.
And you thought Illinois beat Northwestern bad in football this season.
Thursday’s outcome – which sent NU to 9-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten – brought up the question of whether it’s already “Game Over” for the Wildcats this season even though they have 16 games left on the schedule.
And I suspect that Illinois ended NU’s season last night.
As anyone who follows Big Ten basketball knows, Northwestern hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament even once in the 72 years that the Big Dance has been handing out invites.
For a major conference school located within spitting distance of Chicago that defies any reasonable explanation – even the Cubs make the playoffs, you know. And to add a bitter twist of irony to Northwestern’s injury is the fact that the Wildcats actually hosted the first NCAA basketball championship game at Evanston’s Patten Gymnasium in 1939.
According to a sizable number of hoops prognosticators, this season was supposed to be the one in which NU – coming off a 20-win campaign in 2009-10 – finally broke down the doors to the NCAA Tourney. But while I acknowledged that NU’s talent level is greater than in the past, I was still skeptical about that. Because, just like with the Cubs, I’ll believe that it’s “Next Year” in Evanston when I actually see it is.
And so far, I haven’t. Don’t expect to, either. I think Northwestern needed to win last night to have a legitimate shot at Dancing – and they didn’t even come close.
Now, to be fair, NU’s trio of Big Ten losses have come against heavyweights Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois. But the Wildcats probably need to go at least 10-8 – and maybe even 11-7 – in conference play to catch the NCAA Tournament’s eye. So, that would mean they’d need to go 10-5 or 11-4 the rest of the way. And that’s not going to happen.
Certainly not if the Cats play like the ball of yarn they were against Illinois.
“There was not much competition out there tonight,” NU coach Bill Carmody grumbled Thursday after the loss in which the Illini set a school record with 70.5 percent field goal shooting. “I don’t know if it was effort or energy, but we didn’t have what it took to win.”
Sorry to break it to you, Bill, but I don’t think your team has what it takes to make the NCAAs, either.
A current NU student that I know wrote on my Facebook after Northwestern’s debacle in Champaign: “We’re more of a women’s lacrosse school.”
Sure looked like it last night.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.