Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Northwestern came up heart-breakingly short of making its long-awaited NCAA Tournament debut last season. Thanks to some key returnees plus an incoming transfer though, the nerds may finally go home with the prom queen this March.
|Last Year||19-14 (8-10)|
|Coach||Bill Carmody, 12th year|
|Who's Gone||John Shurna, Luka Mirkovic, Davide Curletti, JerShon Cobb (suspended for 2012-13 season)|
|Who's Back||Drew Crawford, Dave Sobolewski, Reggie Hearn, Alex Marcotullio,|
|Who's New||Jared Swopshire, Nikola Cerina, Kale Abrahamson, Alex Olah, Sanjay Lumpkin, Chier Ajou
In case that four-letter sports network didn't repeat it enough for you: Northwestern has never been to the NCAA Tournament. In fact, schools that have fielded Division 1 basketball programs for less than a decade have already experienced the joy of seeing their name called on CBS and playing in one of college sports' most prestigious events (i.e. North Dakota State in 2009). The Wildcats meanwhile, have come painstakingly close-but-no-cigar in recent years during their Sisyphean quest to lose their Big Dance virginity, and this past season seemed to follow that trend as a Northwestern team that most 'bracketologists' at the major sports websites had as one of their 'Last 4 In' going into the Big Ten Tournament, blew their opening round game in overtime against Minnesota, a loss which solidified their status as an NIT participant.
Last year's leading scorer, John Shurna and his patented shooting style have departed Evanston. With Shurna goes 20 points per game, and a 44% 3-point shooting accuracy. Another key starter from last year in JerShon Cobb, will also not be suiting up for Northwestern this season, due to a violation of team rules. Returning seniors Drew Crawford, Alex Marcotullio, and Reggie Hearn comprise of a good portion of the returning numbers listed above. Expect Crawford and Marcotullio to try and fill the void left by Shurna as the team's 3-point ace. The big hopes for NU's lie in their brand new frontcourt. The most notable addition has been Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire. Swopshire transferred from the school after earning his degree, so he is elibigle immediately. He was a starter for Rick Pitino early in his career, but a groin injury forced him to miss his junior year. He never was able to crack the starting lineup last year, so chalk this move up as a chance for more playing time. TCU transfer Nikola Cerina is expected to play a role in NU's new frontcourt as well in his first year of eligibility with the Wildcats. True freshman Alex Olah is another newcomer who is expected to make waves immediately. The 7-foot tall Romanian stalwart is coming off a high school season at Traders Point Christian Academy in Indiana that saw him rack up 18.5 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per game. Needless to say, the Wildcats' front court should be getting a major boost, which is critical given how much of a sore spot it's been in recent years.
Losing two key starters in Shurna and Cobb would normally be a death blow for Northwestern's Big Dance hopes. However, the addition of Swopshire gives the Wildcats a shot-blocking post presence that the Wildcats haven't had since...since...you get my drift. Couple that with the return of a few solid veterans along with likely contribution from a freshman or two, and this may very well be the year Northwestern posts a winning record in Big Ten play and finally gets the NCAA bid the program has long sought for.
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