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 three-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.
If you missed Part II, things didn’t go so hot for me in the first part of conference play. I had stumbled to a 3-6 B1G record by the end of January, albeit with almost all of my games coming against teams in the top half of the conference. Despite the tough record, I was able to pick up a top-ten win over Purdue as well as other quality victories at home against Illinois and on the road in Minneapolis.
With no ranked opponents remaining on the rest of my regular season schedule, I still knew that everything was there for the taking when it came to achieving my goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament. Sure enough, the players (or graphic-based manifestations of code, if you prefer) proved ready to rise to the occasion.
Conference Play (cont.)
Game 19: vs. Michigan
Final Score: L, 36-30
Record: (10-9, 3-7)
Well, things got worse before they got better. I opened up February with another close loss to Michigan after a one-point defeat back in Ann Arbor in January. Drew Crawford did everything he could to keep me in the game with 14 points, but the Wolverines were just too much down the stretch. I blame this loss on the fact that Coach Coffman inexplicably decided to coach the game from behind the scorer’s table:
What are you doing all the way back there, coach??? Stand on the sideline! Your players need you!
Game 20: vs. Indiana
Final Score: W, 85-65
Record: (11-9, 4-7)
When in doubt, you trust the simulation. The Wildcats bounced back at home thanks to 25 points from Juice Thompson and 16 from big man Luka Mirkovič. 2009-10 would turn out to be a dismal year for the Hoosiers in this Dynasty Mode as they limped to a dreadful 1-17 record in B1G play. A loss to that bad of a team may have all but ended my fleeting NCAA Tournament hopes.
Game 21: at Iowa
Final Score: W, 34-24
Record: (12-9, 5-7)
A conference winning streak! A double-digit road win! The ‘Cats are heating up. Thompson led the team in scoring, but Crawford’s remarkable second half ‘and-1’ opportunity was the highlight of this one for sure. Check out this nifty take and finish off the glass:
The reaction from Crawford, Coble and the rest of the bench says it all. You absoloutely love to see freshman Alex Marcotullio turn from the end of the bench and taunt the restless crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Game 22: vs. Minnesota
Final Score: W, 40-36
Record: (13-9, 6-7)
Another win over the Gophers (that’s two head-to-head victories now, keep in mind. Is that a ‘We Believe’ sign I spy just to the right of the backboard? The fans are starting to get into it as the ‘Cats near that ever-so-important .500 mark in Big Ten play.
Game 23: vs. Penn State
Final Score: W, 70-49
Record: (14-9, 7-7)
Another sim, another win. I don’t really think this game is advanced enough to feature simulation upsets, so I let the computer take care of business here. 22 points from Coble led the way, and just like that we’re back to .500 in the Big Ten.
Game 24: at Wisconsin
Final Score: W, 44-41
Record: (15-9, 8-7)
Barely avoided disaster here. The ‘Cats snuck out a win in Madison thanks to some more good play from Coble, who finished 3-for-3 from three-point land en route to 11 points overall. He’s playing with fire in the season he didn’t play in real life — his last hurrah in the purple and white. At this point I feel like I’ve done enough to earn a spot on the bubble, if not yet in the projected field.
Game 25: vs. Iowa
Final Score: L, 27-24
Record: (15-10, 8-8)
Well, Marcotullio didn’t get the last laugh this time. It was a dreadful shooting day from NU, with the boys sitting at a 23.5 percent mark from deep. John Shurna was the only one who could get to double figures, and his last gasp effort from three clanked off the rim as time expired. Back to .500 in conference play, but still in a good position to close out the regular season with two games against bottom-tier Big Ten teams.
Game 26: at Penn State
Final Score: W, 44-43
Record: (16-10, 9-8)
It’s never easy, is it. I lost my focus down the stretch and nearly let a five-point lead slip in the final two minutes, but some clutch free-throw shooting as well as an inexplicable five-second call (the game glitched and PSU literally just didn’t inbound the ball under their own basket) helped me pick up my ninth conference win.
I was able to fight off a 22-point performance from Talor Battle, and I’m feeling good, poised to finish two games over .500 in conference play with only a trip left to Bloomington to close out the regular season.
Game 27: at Indiana
Final Score: W, 63-51
Record: (17-10, 10-8)
Leave it to the simulation to put the cherry on top of what was a remarkable latter half of conference play for these Wildcats. Wins in seven of their last eight games turn a .500 team into a surefire postseason contender. Pretty darn impressive if you ask me.
Here’s my resume heading into the conference tournament:
- Two Top 25 wins
- Only two non-conference losses (one to Notre Dame, who turned out to be pretty bad, but NC State was firmly on the bubble)
- Fourth in the conference standings!
I’m feeling pretty good ahead of the conference tournament. I’m thinking our work is done as far as securing a bid, but a few wins in Indy surely wouldn’t hurt our chances.
Slotting in at fourth in the Big Ten Tourney with a first round bye:
Big Ten Quarterfinals: vs No. 5 seed Minnesota
Final Score: W, 38-29
This HAS to be the clincher. A THIRD head-to-head win over the Gophers and this one in convincing fashion. You could barely hear yourself think in CONSECO Fieldhouse after Kevin Coble went coast-to-coast and threw down a jam in the game’s closing seconds.
Big Ten Semifinals: vs No. 1 seed Michigan State (ranked No. 5 in the country)
Final Score: W, 33-32
Oh but the ‘Cats weren’t ready to leave Indy just yet. DID SOMEONE SAY KEVIN COBLE BUZZER BEATER?? Down 32-31 and inbounding the ball with just under two seconds, it’s now or never for Northwestern’s conference title chances.
And the power forward who didn’t even play this season in real life calls game!!!!!!! In Draymond Green’s face!!
Big Ten Championship: vs No. 2 seed Ohio State
Final Score: L, 32-27
The magic ran out at the end, but it was still a miraculous run nonetheless. Picked up another top-ten win in the conference tournament, and it feels like you should realistically be talking about this Northwestern team as a mid-tier projected seed (7-9) heading into Selection Sunday. History is about to be made.
One final resume reminder before that fateful day:
Snubbed. Utterly snubbed. I sat there through the entire janky, stupid NCAA Basketball 10 Selection Show only to see the Northwestern name never pop up. Just an utterly ridiculous robbery by EA Sports and the heinous makers of this video game. They stripped away a chance at Northwestern history, and completely deprived this team of what was deservedly theirs — a berth in the Big Dance.
There is simply no way to make sense of this. NU was left out after a 17-10 (10-8 B1G) record, including a miraculous run to the Big Ten Title game. The squad went 3-4 against Top 25 teams, and had few, if any, truly “bad” losses. And to make matters even worse, the Minnesota Golden Gophers were given a No. 7 seed despite losing to the ‘Cats three times, having a worse overall and conference record, and sporting a 2-5 record against ranked opponents. Absolutely despicable. The lads didn’t deserve this.
The rankings of this game seen in the bottom righthand corner of each resume make no sense. Northwestern and its impressive resume were good for a ranking of #99 according to the game’s fictional Media Poll. How on earth did that happen? What formula and algorithm in this game engine decided that Northwestern’s resume was deemed 72 (!) slots worse than a Minnesota team it beat three separate times throughout the season? Blasphemous.
Folks, we didn’t even make the NIT.
The pain felt upon seeing the team fall short like that in the end after such an inspiring season is just devastating. A real chance to make history only for it all to be taken away by a terrible, albeit fictional, piece of programming. This decision stripped me of four momentous days driven by a sense of purpose, a commitment and a goal to bring the ‘Cats to the promised land in an alternate history — seven years before it actually happened in real life.
But it came to nothing in the end. Higher powers prevailed. The haunted legacy of an aged video game bereaved this team of a chance at eternal Northwestern glory. It left a bitter end on what was shaping up to be a historic senior season from Kevin Coble. A chance to predict what would have happened had the talented, oft-injured power forward gotten a true chance to achieve Northwestern stardom.
The bottom line is that this game took away something that should have and deserved to belong to Northwestern University. If this were a real team, with diehard fans, this unprecedented snub may well have led to riots, protests, and worse. Instead, we have chosen to go the route of whining on the Internet (after giving serious consideration to suing EA Sports.
Stay away from NCAA Basketball 10. Interact with it at your own risk but just know that it only takes and rarely rewards. Know that its ‘Dynasty Mode’ is almost certain to end in heartbreak for underdog squads like the 2009-10 Northwestern Wildcats. A game like this is against the spirit of March — the spirit of all of college basketball — and for that reason, it should be forever shunned to the depths of video game hell, from whence it came.
Suffice it to say that we are not currently planning on embarking upon a sophomore season.