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Big Ten Tonight Has Not Forgotten About Wheaton

Last night, John Beilein dipped into Bill Carmody's old bag of tricks and scheduled below the Division 1 level, bringing in the NAIA Concordia Cardinals. Michigan won by a comfortable 86-65 margin, but had a bit more trouble than expected, allowing the Cardinals to get within 6 early in the second half before pulling away. Michigan also let some guy named Rocko Holmes score 29 points in 29 minutes on 13-19 shooting, which doesn't say much about their interior defense.

Anyways, I see no reason why a Big Ten team should ever schedule a game vs a non-Division 1 team. There are dozens of terrible teams in Division 1 that will happily take a paycheck in exchange for a beat-down, and if you somehow lose to a non-Division 1 team, you become the laughingstock of college basketball. Which brings me to Wheaton. In December of 2006, your Northwestern Wildcats decided to schedule a local Division 3 school, the Wheaton Thunder. I'm not sure exactly why; perhaps Carmody figured his team was so bad that they needed to bring in a D3 team to guarantee a win. Regardless, the game was an absolute disaster. I'll just quote from the recap:

Wildcats Outlast Wheaton In Defensive Struggle, 41-39

Wheaton nearly pulled one out for its loud contingent of fans as Andy Wiele's 3-pointer bounced off the rim at the final buzzer of the first-ever meeting between the two schools located about 37 miles apart....

...Despite giving up a height advantage across the board, the aggressive Thunder outrebounded Northwestern 36-19 for the game

For my money, this game was the low point of the Carmody era. There are plenty of terrible losses you could point to, but to barely escape a Division 3 team, get outrebounded 2 to 1 by that tiny Division 3 team, and to top it all off, hear a groan echo through Welsh-Ryan Arena as Wheaton's last second shot rimmed out because there were more Wheaton fans there than Northwestern fans, well, it doesn't get much lower than that. I can't recall ever being more embarrassed to be a fan of Northwestern basketball than after this game.

Revisiting it 4 years later, I wonder what Northwestern basketball would look like today had Andy Wiele made that 3-pointer at the buzzer. While Carmody escaped with his job despite a bad record in 2006-07 and an even worse record in 2007-08, losing to a Division 3 team at home might have been humiliating enough to force the administration's hand. So if you're a Carmody supporter, thank Mr.Wiele for missing that shot, because had he made it, Carmody could very well be back in the Ivy League right now.

Tonight's Big Ten action after the jump.

Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers at Penn St. Nittany Lions, 6:30 central, ($)

Northwestern plays Mount St. Mary's later this month, so check this one out for some advanced scouting. No line on this game, but with Penn St. down two rotation players, an upset isn't out of the question.

Northern Iowa Panthers at Iowa Hawkeyes (-3.5), 7 PM central, BTN

A battle of contrasting styles here, as Northern Iowa wants to slow down the pace while Iowa likes to run and gun. The Panthers are a far cry from last year's Sweet 16 team, but they do return an excellent point guard in Kwadzo Ahelegbe and did manage a win over Iowa State earlier this season. Meanwhile, Iowa was very flat in a weekend win over terrible Idaho State, and while Fran McCaffery certainly has the Hawkeyes headed in the right direction, I'm not buying that they're 3.5 favorites over a solid Northern Iowa team. So take the Panthers and the points, and if you want to tease that with the over 120, feel free.

Syracuse Orange vs. Michigan St. Spartans (-3), 8 PM central, ESPN (Jimmy V Classic from MSG)

An excellent early season showdown, as Tom Izzo continues his philosophy of scheduling anyone, anytime, and anywhere. Jim Boeheim has the Orange undefeated, but they have had narrow escapes over some middling competition (Georgia Tech, William & Mary, Michigan). The Only Colors had an excellent preview of the game, so just read that to learn more. I'm not confident enough in either side to place a wager, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Purdue Boilermakers at Valparaiso Crusaders (+7), 8 PM central, ESPNU

This one has "trap game" written all over it for Purdue. Coming off two straight wins, the Boilers hit the road and give in-state little brother Valpo a shot at the big boys. This has to be the biggest game on Valpo's schedule, and they come in on a 4 game winning streak including back to back road wins to open Horizon League play. Meanwhile, Purdue will be without guard John Hart, who was emerging as a much-needed third scorer behind E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. While it's tempting to take Valpo, they haven't beaten anyone good yet this year and are unlikely to have an answer for Moore or Johnson, so it will be tough to pull the upset, but the 7 point spread certainly indicates they have a chance.

Gambling record: 9-5-1