When it comes to lack of basketball prowess, Northwestern is no longer alone in the Big Ten.
I doubt anyone was more excited to hear about the addition of Nebraska than Bill Carmody and his players. Nebraska is one of three schools, along with Northwestern and South Florida, who have never won an NCAA Tournament game.
At least Nebraska has made it to the NCAA Tournament. The Cornhuskers did relatively well for themselves in the 1990s under Danny Nee, making the Big Dance from 1991-1994 and then again in 1998. They also made the tournament in 1986.
Like Northwestern, Nebraska faced the unfortunate double-whammy of playing in a strong basketball conference and not being a very good basketball school itself. Still, it managed to win the NIT in 1996, something Northwestern has yet to claim.
Adding the Cornhuskers could make Pat Fitzgerald's life more difficult, but it could help Carmody finally end Northwestern's NCAA Tournament drought for 2011.
The good news for Northwestern is that Kevin Coble will be back. He was hands-down the best player on the Wildcats' roster heading into the 2009-2010 season.
But after suffering a season-ending injury, someone had to step up and fill his role. That person was John Shurna, who quickly and quietly became Northwestern's go-to scorer. His height poses matchup problems for the entire conference, including Nebraska.
Michael Thompson is a quality point guard who can light it up from beyond the arc. Drew Crawford was arguably the Wildcats' best player during several late-season games and easily showed he was the most athletic player on the roster.
Of course, Jershawn Cobb will be joining the Wildcats next season.
He's the best recruit to come to Northwestern in recent memory and could be the wild card this squad needs to make it over the hump. Since Coble and Thompson are both in their final seasons in Evanston, it really is win-now for the Wildcats.
Having Nebraska to (hopefully) beat up on will only help matters. Northwestern faltered down the stretch in 2010 against teams they were supposed to beat. With Coble back and the other players getting that experience under their belts, it is not likely to happen again.
Throw Nebraska in with Penn State, Iowa, and Indiana as members of the bottom of the Big Ten. Northwestern needs to edge out Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois if they want to finish in the conference's top five and qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Adding one school won't drastically impact Northwestern's outlook for 2010-2011.
But it does give the Wildcats hope. When it comes to miserable basketball, they've got company.
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