Living in what feels like a void for content, we here at Inside NU have gone with the decision to launch a special, exclusive, riveting, brand new four-part series. To honor what was originally scheduled to be the week building up to the 2020 Final Four, I will be playing/simulating an entire season with Northwestern men’s basketball via the Xbox 360 and the brutally bad NCAA Basketball 10, undeniably one of the worst sports-related, widely-released video games of the century.
In these times of trouble and uncertainly, the 2009-10 Wildcats will attempt to do the unthinkable and clinch Northwestern’s first-ever spot in the Big Dance (2017, of course, does not exist in the world of NCAA Basketball 10).
It won’t be easy, but with a little luck, magic and poor video game programming, the Wildcats just may have what it takes to go all the way.
It’s hard to believe things have come to this point.
At the end of last month, Inside NU content was thriving. The women’s basketball team had just clinched a share of the Big Ten title, and the entire Northwestern sporting community had its eyes set on the mouthwatering prospect of Welsh-Ryan Arena hosting an NCAA Tournament Regional come mid-March.
Instead, just over a month removed from Northwestern winning its first conference basketball time in 30 years, I’m really about to do a four-part series that involves nothing more than me sitting on my couch and playing a crappy video game that hasn’t been touched since I was in middle school.
Crazy how so much can change so quickly.
Using the ‘Dynasty Mode’ feature on NCAA Basketball 10, I’m prepared to give the greater Northwestern fanbase the championship it both needs and deserves in these trying teams.
NCAA Basketball 10 imports rosters/schedules from the 2009-10 season (without using student-athletes names and likenesses obviously), meaning we’re dealing with actually one of the better teams in the history of the program. The Wildcats finished 20-14 (7-11 B1G) that season under Bill Carmody, led by double digit season scoring averages from John Shurna, Michael “Juice” Thompson and Drew Crawford.
The 2009-10 season marked a second consecutive trip to the NIT for Northwestern in what turned out to be a four-year streak of the Wildcats qualifying for the secondary postseason college men’s basketball tournament.
This time around, though, led by head coach and Inside NU editor-in-chief Noah Coffman (editor’s note: I am honored to have the chance to lead this squad to the promised land, but admittedly less honored by the horrific mustache that Joe has forced my avatar to sport), the Wildcats have bigger goals. They want a trip to the dance.
Luckily for Coach Coffman, he’ll have a key piece to work with in Kevin Coble (otherwise known as PF #44), who actually didn’t play in this 2009-10 season in real life due to a left foot injury that took him more than a year to rehab, and eventually led to a dispute that resulted in Coble leaving the program for good. He led NU in scoring the year prior to his injury, and most importantly, he’s the highest rated Wildcat on the team.
The starting lineup that I’ll use for the entire season is as seen below (injuries turned off):
PG #22 = Juice Thompson
SG #23 = Jeremy Nash
SF #1 = Drew Crawford
PF #44 = Kevin Coble
PF #12 = Luka Mirković
For the sake of my own time, I won’t be playing this entire 30+ game season. I’ve decided to simulate a decent portion of non-conference games, although I did take matters into my own hands to play a few games on 7:00 minute halves just to get a feel for game flow and the team’s attributes within the game.
Game 1: vs Northern Illinois
Final Score: W, 36-28
I was met with a raucous home crowd for the season opener. The game is littered with unbelievably frustrating bugs, but I was able to get a win on opening night thanks to 19 points from Juice Thompson. Six of those 19 came from the free throw stripe, as Northern Illinois bewilderingly fouled Juice shooting a three on two separate occasions.
To start what I am now dubbing the Kevin Coble revenge tour, the power forward managed eight points, five boards, and three blocks in his season debut. Coble proved he is here to make a name for himself.
Game 2: vs No. 11 Butler
Final Score: W, 33-29
The season is off to as fast a start as anyone could have expected. After the expected win over NIU, Northwestern pulled off a monumental upset in Welsh-Ryan against one of the top teams in the nation. Gordon Hayward was locked up by a swarming ‘Cats defense, managing just four points across the entire game.
Coble continued his hot start to the year with a dagger three in the final ten seconds to give the ‘Cats an ultimately insurmountable four-point lead. Juice managed another 19 points to lead the way.
Side note: Perhaps the most frustrating part of this incredibly frustrating game is the way the ESPN scoreboard abbreviates Northwestern:
They got it right in the top corner, but abosloutely butchered it down at the bottom of the screen. “N’Westn?” Seriously? Starting to feel some EA Sports Bias here against the ‘Cats...
Game 3: vs Tennessee State
Final Score: W, 63-48
Ok, this is where I got bored and started simulating a few games. ‘Cats keep rolling.
Game 4: vs Liberty
Final Score: W, 82-43
Jerry Falwell did not deserve this win and he did not get it. Northwestern should never schedule Liberty ever again.
Game 5: @ Notre Dame
Final Score: L, 66-59
A tantalizingly close comeback fell just short in the end for the ‘Cats in South Bend. Juice Thompson’s 19 points (again!) weren’t enough at the end of the day as NU suffers its first loss of the season.
Game 6: @ NC State
Final Score: L, 31-29
I just simply got exposed by gameplay as I got back into the action with a close loss at NC State. Things I’m beginning to learn about this game: there are very few called reach-in fouls, the alley oop is impossible to defend, and Coble cannot dribble for his life in the post (four turnovers).
Coach Coffman was not impressed by the back-to-back losses:
Game 7: North Carolina AT&T
Final Score: W, 89-47
Back to our winning ways on the simulation. Thompson scores 17 of his own, while senior guard Jeremy Nash adds 14 of his own.
Game 8: Stanford
Final Score: W, 79-53
Blowout win over Stanford, you gotta love it. Thompson with 22, and how about a 14-piece from John Shurna off the bench! Certainly makes up for what would be the 2019 football game against Stanford, even though that likely never happens in this universe now that I’ve messed with the fabric of space-time.
Game 9: Central Connecticut State
Final Score: W, 76-55
Taking care of business in the final non-conference contest of the season. The NCSU and Notre Dame losses might be a minor blow to the resume, but thus far, Coffman and the Wildcats have all their goals ahead of them as they prepare for the start of conference play.
EA’s Dynasty Mode Bracketology simulation failed to include NU in its projected field as of the last win, but a 7-2 record with a win over No. 11 Butler should give fans confidence heading into B1G play. The play we’ve seen during both user-controlled and simulated games is promsing to say the least, especially considering the game is being played on the ‘All-American’ setting. These matchups are by no means a walk in the park.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of team production thus far:
As you can see, depth is a critical issue here. Shurna giving 6.9 (!) points per contest off the bench is encouraging, but Thompson and Coble are seriously pulling the weight for this team on the scoring end through nine games. Also, shout out to Luka Mirković hauling in 12.1 boards per contest. With Coble playing at this best, I truly believe this team has a shot to finish over .500 in conference play.
Don’t go anywhere these next few days as I’ll be back with Part 2 as conference play begins. I promise, you won’t want to miss it.