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Northwestern Basketball Roundtable, Volume One: THE RECKONING

So, tomorrow is the Illinois game, and that's mad important. Like, waking up at 6:30 to get a train to Champaign important, for me. 

But arguably more important is the start of basketball season. And as noted, I ain't writing about basketball round these parts.

But what I did do is ask the two best of the... slightly more than two NU basketball blogs out there to answer a few questions. Ryan from Welsh-Ryan Ramblings has the most comprehensive NU basketball coverage on the internet, and has helped chart NU's potential basketball ascendance on the internet. Fire Bill Carmody, on the other hand, has a website whose title is "Fire Bill Carmody." 

I figure they had just about polar opposite viewpoints on NU basketball, and that it would be a cool idea to ask two people with wildly varying viewpoints on a seemingly uncontroversial topic their thoughts at the beginning of the year.

So here goes:

I say "Bill Carmody", tell me in like three sentences how you feel about him being the coach at this exact moment in time right now.

Welsh-Ryan Ramblings: I think Carmody is an excellent teacher and coach who has finally realized what he needs to do to win at Northwestern. Early on I think he recruited the guys he thought were best athletes he could get at NU regardless of their other basketball skills and hoped he could teach them to fit the Princeton Offense (didn’t work). Now, in part thanks to Tavaras Hardy, I think Carmody is actually recruiting with the idea that he needs to find guys who will be natural fits for the PO. I know some people don’t like that style of play, but it gives NU the best chance to win and with the right players Carmody can make it look really good.

FBC: This seems to be the first time anyone has cared about NU basketball, and I'm curious to see how the coach handles it.  The amount of media coverage (both local and national) has been astonishing to me, and I want to see how Carmody manages those expectations, since this is the first time there has ever been a modicum of pressure on him.  There was no reason to bring him back after going 8-22 in 07/08, but I'm over it.  Let's see what he can do now that Tavaras has bailed him out with some better recruits.

More questions, after the jump.

This is Kevin Coble's final year. (yeah, I wrote these questions on Wednesday. Deal with it.) Do the Wildcats need to win this year, or does the fact that our recruiting seems to have looked up in recent years mean we might have a better team a few years down the line?

W-RR: Yes and no. If NU doesn’t make the NCAA tournament this year they won’t make it next year. I’m not saying they’ll go 5-25, but I don’t think Jershon Cobb will come right in and replace Coble as a go to scorer. However, Cobb’s a talented player and if NU adds a few (or all) of the Georgia Kings to along with him, John Shurna, and Drew Crawford then NU basketball will actually be in better shape two years from now than it is today.

FBC: Kevin Coble is a nice player, but if NU is to consistently compete in this conference, they have to continue to upgrade the talent.  I understand the sense of urgency to win this year for Kevin's sake, but I don't think all is lost after he's gone.  I would love to look back on Kevin Coble's career and view him as perhaps THE player that helped turn things around.  But I would also like to look at a Northwestern team in the next few years on which Kevin Coble might not be good enough to start.

Who replaces Craig Moore? Does somebody need to replace Craig Moore?

W-RR: Well it looks like Drew Crawford will replace him in the starting lineup, but I think it’ll actually be Juice Thompson that replaces him as NU’s go to three point shooter. I don’t think that’ll be a problem. Juice has consistently hit 40%-plus of his threes. The area where somebody, again probably Juice, has to step up is free throw shooting. Somebody needs to take over the Moore role of hitting the clutch free throws to ice games. Juice made clutch free throws at MSU last year. I’d also look to see how good a free throw shooter Drew Crawford is because he looks like a decent ball handler which means he’ll have the ball late in games when teams press.

FBC: Yes, Craig Moore needs to be replaced, in more ways than one.  Obviously his points will need to come from somewhere, but I'm less concerned about that than I am replacing his leadership.  At key moments everyone else turned to Craig to take the big shots.  His leadership and basketball IQ will be missed by this team in close games.  We'll have to wait and see who, if anyone, fills that role, but I'm hopefully that John Shurna's summer experience give him the confidence to do so.  (And don't be shocked if Jeff Ryan delivers some leadership as well.)

Predictions for the year? What needs to happen this year for it to be a successful season?

W-RR: For this year to be successful NU needs to win 20+ games. I’d say make the NCAA tournament, but if NU wins 21 games and gets left out of the field those are events beyond NU’s control. For the record, I think 20+ wins gets NU in due to the toughness of the Big Ten. The only exception I’d have to the above is if a major injury happens. Obviously, we just heard Kevin Coble got hurt today in practice. If he’s out for an extended period I think we’d all have to acknowledge NU might drop some early season games due to his lost production. I would then look at how NU improved once Coble returned to judge the year’s success or failure.

FBC: This season is a failure if they take a step backwards.  The non-conference schedule is set up for no more than two losses, so that should be 11 wins right there.  The Big Ten will be much tougher than last year (although NU only has to play Purdue and Ohio State once each), so realistically I do not expect this Wildcats team to break through to the NCAA tournament.  It would be great to avoid any bad losses and/or late collapses and hopefully knock off a couple of the big boys.  Winning two or three games in the NIT would be a great step forward.  However, as I've said many times, if NU is in fact able to break through to the Dance and Bill Carmody is the man to lead them there, I'll give him a big hug and close up shop forever.

So there you go. Both guys seemed surprisingly optimistic, even the one whose site is named after, well, firing Bill Carmody. Tell me who you agree with in them comments.