Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Overall record: 13-15
Big Ten record: 2-12
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private schools (Duke and Stanford particularly) have built strong programs while playing in small, seemingly outdated arenas.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.
The point? IU has struggled on the road this year, but a loss tomorrow night in Evanston would be the worst loss by anyone in the Big Ten this season. Before a three game Evanston losing streak under Mike Davis, IU had not lost to Northwestern since 1988, home or away. Northwestern has never won in Assembly Hall and hasn't won in Bloomington since 1968, but even Welsh-Ryan Arena has been friendly to the Hoosiers. I'll add some more substance tomorrow. But this isn't so much a must-win as a can't-lose.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
According the the various wire reports and other articles, Sampson, who won a higher percentage of his games than any OU coach, was received warmly by Sooner fans. At this time last season, although he did face the threat of NCAA sanctions, Kelvin Sampson was entrenched at a school where he won over 70 percent of his games, won two Big XII tournament titles, qualified for the NCAA Tournament every season but one, and reached the 2002 Final Four. So, why would Kelvin walk away from that and come to IU? Daily Oklahoman columnist John Rohde gives us some insight on that:
OU fans did not embarrass themselves, other than there being 1,000 empty seats.
Not even free T-shirts on Senior Night on Big Monday with No. 3 Kansas in the
building can fill Lloyd Noble these days.)
The pressure of coaching at IU can be intense, but Kelvin will never again have to worry about 1,000 empty seats for a game against a top 5 opponent on Senior Night. Some coaches thrive on the pressure inherent in a program of IU's stature, while others shrink from it. We won't know for a while whether Sampson will become one of IU's all-time great coaches, but I think it's obvious that he has the personality for a place like IU. We haven't had that in a while.
Another interesting tidbit from the OU coverage that I don't recall seeing in the Indiana media: Kellen Sampson will join his dad's staff at IU next season.