19 February 2011

On NCAAs -- finally a glimmer of hope

So Northwestern defeated Iowa to raise its record to 5-9 in the Big Ten and 15-10 overall. That puts NU's magic number at 5. With only four regular season games left you don't need to be a math whiz to realize that NU has no margin for error to make the NCAAs bubble. It's either:

* win out (including an improbable win at the Kohl--kenpom.com puts the odds at less than 10%) and win a first round Big Ten Tourney game; or

* win 3/4 and do something unprecedented--win twice in the Big Ten Tourney. Assuming a loss at the Kohl the biggest hurdle is today's two day turnaround game at Indiana--who has a week of rest and prep--thank you very much Big Ten; or

* hold serve and win just the home games against Penn State and Minnesota (NU currently favored in both) and make an even deeper run to the finals of the Big Ten Tournament; or

* fuggedabout the regular season and simply win the Big Ten Tourney.

You know we've been pretty pessimistic about NU's prospects ever since NU lost up at Minnesota. Part of that pessimism was rooted in our view that Minnesota without Al Nolen is an NCAA bubble type team. Part of it was the lingering ankle issues for Johnny Shurna and the newly suffered concussion (thank you Ralph Sampson Jr).

Well Shurna finally looked like himself against Iowa. He was knocking down bombs, throwing it down, smiling again. While the odds are clearly stacked against Northwestern making the NCAAs at this late juncture, at least Shurna appears healthy again which to us gives us at least some basis for holding out some faint hope that the NCAAs dream isn't completely dead.

We'll know more after a big game at Bloomington tonight. Indiana is shorthanded and has shown susceptibility to losing at home to lower rung Big Ten teams (Iowa). It is possible NU wins this game though kenpom.com puts the odds of it happening at only 35%. Those odds may be a bit low based on NU's results over 13 Big Ten games with Shurna nursing injuries and Indiana's depleted roster.

NU is capable of winning this game. Make it so.