Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: It was another season of close but no cigar for Northwestern. Another year gone, another year in which the Wildcats narrowly missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid. At this point, it’s hard to judge this team based on anything but a bid to the Big Dance, as a Tourney berth is the clear-cut next step in this program’s growth. Things won’t get any easier next year, when the team loses Luka Mirkovic, Davide Curletti and first-team All-Big Ten player John Shurna. But before we get ahead of ourselves, a look back at this past year.
- In a nutshell: Statistically speaking, two things led to the Wildcats’ demise this season: defense and free throw shooting. It’s hard to remain competitive when you’re one of the worst defensive units in the Big Ten (11th in the conference, ahead of only Iowa) and it’s really difficult to pull out those all-important close games when you can’t shoot free throws (10th in the conference, ahead of Penn State and Purdue). To see just how narrowly Northwestern missed the Tournament, you need look no further than all the close losses: a one-point loss to Illinois, two overtime losses to Michigan, a two-point loss to Purdue, a five-point loss to Indiana, a two-point loss to Ohio State, and a devastating overtime loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »