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The Northwestern game.

Northwestern Wildcats
Overall record: 13-15
Big Ten record: 2-12
RPI: 156
Sagarin: 145
Series record: IU leads 104-43

Of all of the basketball programs that have been long-term members of major conferences, Northwestern's is the undisputed worst. Northwestern is the only current member of the six "power" (i.e., BCS) conferences that has never played in the NCAA Tournament. Even the Big East's newcomer South Florida has been to the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern stands alone. The Wildcats won their only outright Big Ten title in 1931 and shared the title in 1932 and 1933, but that's it. For comparison's sake, Chicago won six Big Ten titles before leaving the conference in 1946.

If this blogging endeavor were further along, I might invite a Northwestern blogger, if such a thing exists, to opine on why the Wildcats have set such a high standard for ineptitude. Northwestern is a great school with a beautiful campus, a fine location near a wonderful city that produces loads of basketball talent (both in the city and in the suburbs), and plays in a major conference. Welsh-Ryan Arena, because of its size and purple color, reminds me a bit of the great old fieldhouse at Muncie Central High School, but other successful private schools (Duke and Stanford particularly) have built strong programs while playing in small, seemingly outdated arenas. Football would seem to be a much more difficult sport for a small, private school to manage successfully, but NU has turned into a respectable football school in the last decade or so, at least occasionally. Yet, in basketball, where just one strong recruiting class can turn the tide for a program, NU's futility continues unabated. I really expected Bill Carmody to turn things around, and by the numbers, he is NU's best coach in decades, but still hasn't broken through.

Astoundingly, IU has not won in Evanston since 2002. As I noted in my last entry, IU has now lost three in a row in Evanston. No current Hoosier has won in Evanston. Last year's senior class never won in Evanston. During the entire Bob Knight era, IU lost in Evanston only three times (1982, 1984, 1988). IU last lost three in a row in Evanston in the last throes of the Lou Watson era, from 1968-1970. This is a situation that requires correction.
According to the invaluable Big Ten Wonk, through last weekend's game, Northwestern's scoring offense is the worst in the Big Ten, at a meager .90 points per possession. NU is ranked #3 in two-point field goal percentage, but offsets that with an abominable 27 percent three point percentage. The Cats take reasonably good care of the ball (they turn the ball over on 19 percent of their possessions, fourth-best in the Big Ten) but grab offensive rebounds on only 21 percent of their possessions. Northwestern plays at by far the slowest pace of any Big Ten team. NU averages 56.5 possessions per game in Big Ten play. Iowa plays at the fastest pace (64.1 possessions per game). Penn State is tenth at 60.2 possessions per game. Yes, that means the difference between #10 Penn State and #11 Northwestern (3.7) is nearly as large as the difference between #1 Iowa and #10 Penn State (4.2). As with many slow-paced teams, commentators will look at points allowed per game and presume that a team like Northwestern plays "tough defense." Don't make that mistake. NU gives up more points per possession than any team in the league other than Penn State.
I could delve into individual matchups, but why? NU doesn't have a player that IU wanted and IU doesn't have a player that would have considered NU. This season, in large part, is about restoring order to the universe of IU basketball. In an orderly universe, IU wins at Northwestern. Let's do it.