So, about eight months ago, about this time, I started to write a post about how disappointed I was that I'd be missing basketball season.
I'm a journalism student here at Northwestern, and part of that means I have to take a quarter-long journalism residency working at a newspaper, magazine, or broadcast station somewhere. (For me, a newspaper.) It also meant that about a year ago, I had to fill out a form saying which quarter I wanted to take my JR, which, for me, turned into a private referendum on which quarter I least wanted to miss at NU. Which essentially turned into a referendum on which sports I like the most.
You see, fall quarter is football season. Can't miss that. Spring quarter is the one quarter the campus looks nice, and there's Dillo Day, although there's not much sports. Winter quarter - i.e., January-March, for those of you not down - is by far the worst time possible to live in Chicago. You don't see the grass once the entire quarter because of the constant perma-state of snow on the ground. You don't want to leave your room - for class, to go out at night, for anything, really.
But there's basketball. Attending college basketball games has been one of my favorite experiences at NU - its a tiny stadium, so when there's a loud student section, you can hear it. And there's good quality, meaningful basketball. I already spent a year of my college experience covering the basketball team for the paper, which meant I spent the entire year on press row, making small talk with other writers over pulled pork sandwiches instead of rushing the court and hoping NU held on for the win more so that I could not have to rewrite my story than because it would be awesome.I felt robbed by that. As much as you guys think of me as a football writer, I love basketball more than pretty much anything: playing it, watching it, writing about it. I can't go without basketball.
So, a certain part of me was a little bit devastated when I found out I'd be doing my JR during winter quarter. I have a lot of reasons not to want to leave Evanston in six weeks - first off, I'd have to find housing in the next six weeks in some other city. I'd have to move, I'd have to unmount my awesome mounted guitar, I'd have to pack up all my stuff, leave all my friends behind, leave my house, and live in some random city where I didn't know anybody. But, well, in the back of my mind, I couldn't stop thinking about NU basketball.
Because, people, we've known this for a while, but it's true now: THIS is the year. Two years ago, we thought it was the year because Craig Moore was graduating. Turns out he's just a jump-shooter, and sort of replaceable. Last year, we thought it was the year because Kevin Coble was graduating. Turns out John Shurna does everything Coble does, but slightly better in every way.
Northwestern will not be able to replace Juice Thompson. I don't know any of the point guard recruits NU will bring in next year. I don't need to. Thompson is the best shooter and best passer on the team. Game-in, game-out, I'm shocked by the shots and runners he gets off - and hits - despite his size disadvantage. And although he's not completely efficient off the dribble, he scores in volume in a way no other player - besides Shurna, and maybe Drew Crawford - can do going towards the rim. Sometimes, he's NU's best option offensively. Sometimes, the offense is Juice.
For my first two years as a college student, NU has gotten close to the NCAA tournament. Even the haters can't deny that. NU has been there at the cusp. This might not be the year NU makes it. But it has to be, in my eyes. If NU can't go dancing this year, we likely won't next year - ending their chances of going in my collegiate career unless I start failing classes and failing them fast -and we likely won't for a few years after that.
And with the now-subsided hype about the tournament expanding to 96 teams, there could have been a situation where NU was essentially an NCAA tournament shoo-in in two years - but still would have been the last major college school never to make it into the 64-team bracket we all know and love.
I have my qualms with this team. I don't know who our center is, behind Luka Mirkovic, and that could get ugly fast. I don't think Bill Carmody should continually be allowed to coach NU with no on-court success. I want Alex Marcotullio to do anything besides shoot. But it's realistic. Northwestern is, quite frankly, not that bad in a conference filled with the nation's best and brightest.In a 68 team tournament, NU very well could be one of the names called.
But my fandom is primed. Things can go wrong - they always do - but this year, they also have the opportunity to finally go right. It's now or continuing down the NU Memorial Pathway to Never.
I had this image in my head of me on my JR. Let's say everything went right: I had a great job, had a roommate or someone who was cool so I wasn't essentially living by myself in some city - let's say Lexington, Kentucky - where I didn't know anybody and never had, work wasn't too hard, and I had a hookup to the Big Ten Network.
I still had this image of me sitting there - during some pivotal game ensuring NU a spot in the NCAA's, or maybe on Selection Sunday - and history happening, and me being in Lexington, Kentucky. Sitting on my computer, watching comments pop up on my blog.
Wednesday, my JR assignment came in, and I found out I'll be working at the Northwest Herald, in Crystal Lake, about an hour west of Evanston.
I'm excited I get to live in the room I'm living in now, with its kickass mounted guitar. I'm excited I get to play IM basketball as well as coach my team, which wants to run a specific defensive set that I will discuss in further posts on this site, but will not now for purposes of not giving away our secrets. (It's important.) That I get to stay in the same state as my girlfriend. That I get to stay in this building where most of my friends live and hang out on a daily basis. That I don't have to put my social life on hiatus for three months.
But the thing that I might be the most excited about is that tonight, basketball season starts - yes, it's in DeKalb, I know - but I'm here. I'll be here until March. And March, if you didn't know, is when certain basketball events happen. And I'll be in Evanston, waiting to see if they happen the way we all want them to.