Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday evening’s game between Stanford and Northwestern.
Eleven of the current Big Ten schools have appeared in the NCAA Tournament. The only school from the conference that has not appeared in the Big Dance is Northwestern. The history of Wildcats basketball is marred with futility. The team has not won a Big Ten title since 1933 and has consistently finished in the bottom half of the league ever since – the Wildcats have not finished higher than fourth place since 1968. In its home at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern has a lone banner honoring its seven National Invitational Tournament appearances amidst many other banners honoring NCAA Tournament appearances in other sports.
In an attempt to change the course of its basketball history, Northwestern hired Bill Carmody in April 2000 to replace Kevin O’Neill. Carmody came to the Wildcats following a highly successful four-year stint as the head coach at Princeton. While at Princeton, Carmody led the Tigers to NCAA Tournament appearances during his first two seasons and NIT appearances in his third and fourth seasons. Since arriving in Evanston, Carmody has found out that winning consistently in the Big Ten is much harder than it was in the Ivy League. Now in his 13th season, Carmody’s overall record with the Wildcats is just 187-192, while his Big Ten mark is a lackluster 66-136. The best Carmody has ever finished in the Big Ten was in a fifth-place tie in the 2003-04 season – a season where the Wildcats still finished 14-15 overall and out of the postseason.