Could Northwestern Wildcats Basketball Be on the Rise?

Oliver VanDervoortCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2008

Remember when Northwestern and horrendous football went hand-in-hand? For decades, the Northwestern Wildcats were expected to be the doormats of the powerful Big Ten Conference. They were the team on the conference schedule that all other teams wanted to see.

Then came the late '90s, and suddenly if Northwestern wasn't competing for the Big Ten title, they were behaving as a thorn in the side of their rivals. The arrival of Gary Barnett, Randy Walker, and most recently Pat Fitzgerald have turned the Wildcats into a perennial bowl contender, and possibly a perennial contender for the Big Ten championship.

Could Bill Carmody do the same thing for the Wildcats basketball team? It seems unlikely at first glance.

Carmody has posted exactly one winning season since he arrived in Evanston, and that was seven years ago. Since 2001, Carmody has coaxed more than 14 wins out of his team in one season exactly one time. Why does the man even still have a job you ask?

Because despite winning just eight games a year ago, he has his team moving in the right direction. Carmody was able to haul in a recruiting class that consisted of four players rated as three-star talent by, one of the most preeminent recruiting services in the country. Compare that to in-state and basketball powerhouse Illinois, who had one two-star recruit, and one unrated.

While talent is coming into Northwestern, it appears the talent Carmody already has is starting to play better, as well. The Wildcats are off to a 7-1 start to the season, meaning they are just two wins short of passing last season's total before the conference season even starts.

While the Wildcats went an abysmal 1-15 in the Big Ten in 2007-08, the watering down of the power teams could mean an improvement there, as well, and while a berth in the NCAA Tournament is still a few years away, a bid in the post season NIT would be a welcome event to the postseason-starved program. It's also a realistic goal.