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What Drew Crawford's Injury Means for Northwestern

by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)

Northwestern's basketball team was supposed to have its deepest team of the Bill Carmody era heading into this season, but its already depleted depth was hampered by perhaps its biggest loss yet today, as the program announced that senior forward Drew Crawford will miss the remainder of the season to undergo shoulder surgery. Crawford suffered a torn labrum and "aggravated a previous injury in early September," according to Carmody. Crawford will seek an NCAA medical hardship waiver for a fifth year. Teddy Greenstein tweeted that an NU source is very confident Crawford will get that fifth year. An NU source told us, "We've done our homework," regarding whether Crawford will be eligible.

"Drew's situation is similar to Tre Demps' a year ago," Carmody said in the release. "Drew aggravated a previous in early September and attempted to play through it, but it just hasn't as we all would have liked.

"While it obviously hurts to lose a player of Drew's caliber, it provides an opportunity for his teammates to step up and contribute."

As we mentioned earlier, Crawford's injury is another loss in a long line of injuries Northwestern has endured this season. Junior forward Nikola Cerina still hasn't returned from an ankle sprain he suffered earlier in the year, freshman guard/forward Sanjay Lumpkin has yet to play significant minutes after a bout with mononucleosis and senior guard Alex Marcotullio is struggling with lingering back issues. Top guard JerShon Cobb was suspended for the entire year before the season began.

After an inconsistent start that drew pause from many fans, this is a major blow on Northwestern's season, and the Wildcats could struggle to make the NCAA Tournament. This NU team doesn't have many great scorers, and Crawford is the one player who has a track record of being a top shooter. However, he has been inconsistent this year, and part of that may be due to his injury. Now, NU will need to rely on seniors Reggie Hearn and Jared Swopshire to take major steps up, and freshmen Alex Olah and Kale Abrahamson will need to make immediate strides. With so much inexperience and so little depth, its unlikely that the Wildcats can end their streak of missing out on the NCAA Tournament this year. However, if Crawford is granted a medical hardship waiver — you never know, but he certainly has a good case — then next year could be even better.

Next year's team figured to be better than this year's because this year's star freshmen — Olah, Abrahamson and Lumpkin — will have a year of experience under their belt, and a new class of freshmen that includes four-star point guard Jaren Sina and three-star forward Nate Taphorn, a renowned shooter, will be joining the team, as well. Hearn and Swopshire will be gone, but Dave Sobolewski, Cerina and, potentially, Crawford will be back from this year's team. Not to mention the return of Cobb, who is arguably the team's most talented guard and a strong defender and transition player. That team undoubtedly would be the best of the Carmody era.

Just look at the potential starting five and bench:

PG: Dave Sobolewski

SG: JerShon Cobb

G/F: Drew Crawford

G/F: Kale Abrahamson/Nikola Cerina/Sanjay Lumpkin

C: Alex Olah

Bench: Nate Taphorn, Jaren Sina, Tre Demps, Chier Ajou, Abrahamson/Cerina/Lumpkin

So yes, this probably ends any chances Northwestern had of making the NCAA Tournament this year, but if Crawford is granted a medical hardship waiver, 2013-2014 will likely set up to be the best team by far of the Bill Carmody era. For a program that has been forced to look for a silver lining for decades, this one could actually be a benefit in the long run.