Wildcats hoping first Tournament berth is right around the corner

Wildcats hoping first Tournament berth is right around the corner
October 26, 2012, 5:18 pm
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ROSEMONT Northwesterns hopes for reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time took a hit nearly two months before its season opener.
Wildcats junior guard JerShon Cobb was suspended for the season stemming from violations of team policy, the school announced in late September. He was one of Northwesterns four returning starters.
The Wildcats feel they have other options to contend for that elusive NCAA tournament appearance.
We play a center and four guys around the perimeter, so we have a few freshmen who I think are good, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said at Thursdays Big Ten Media Day at Hyatt Regency OHare. Kale (Abrahamson) and Sanjay (Lumpkin) and with the addition of Jared Swopshire) I think were going to be OK in the perimeter. JerShon hasto take care of business, and we will welcome him back next year.
The Wildcats will have to replace Cobb, who averaged 7.1 points, and John Shurna, the 2012 Big Ten scoring champion who led the team with 20 points and 5.4 rebounds and is currently playing for the New York Knicks.
It definitely means I have to pick up some of that scoring were missing with him, not only with JerShon but Shurna leaving as well, sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski said. With those two guys going down, everybodys going to need to step up their role a little bit. Not one person is going to be able to replace them completely, especially Shurna. But if each of us do a little bit extra, maybe score even only 4-5 points extra a game, itll add up as a team and well be OK.
Northwestern just missed the NCAA tournament last season, finishing 19-14 and advancing to the second round of the NIT.
Its not frustration, Carmody said about missing the NCAA Tournament. Maybe back then it was, but you move forward. The program has gotten much, much better over the last four years. The program so stable, so well be in the mix every year. Were getting better and better players and better players make better coaches.
I have an endorsement from our athletic director and our president, so I feel fine, he said about his job security.
The Wildcats lost Shurna and Cobb, but welcome five newcomers, including 7-footers Chier Ajou and Alex Olah and Louisville transfer Swopshire and TCU transfer Nikola Cerina. After the Wildcats lost four players to injuries last season, Carmody is enjoying added depth; he said hes comfortable playing 10 deep.
With the added size, physicality and depth, Carmody feels theres potential to be an NCAA Tournament team.
Theres always pressure to win, he said. You always want to win and keep the program where it is, but now you have to move forward, not just incrementally. You have to make a jump here. Even though you lose Shurna, people say, Whoa, that was the year. But youd be surprised at our guys. Weve got some pretty decent newcomers.
Besides the five newcomers, Northwestern brings back three starters guardforward Drew Crawford, a third-team all-Big Ten selection last season, former walk-on Reggie Hearn and Sobolewski, who was on the Big Ten all-freshman team last season. Sobolewski said competing in the deep Big Ten could help the Wildcats postseason aspirations. Three conference teams are ranked in the top five of the USA Today coaches poll, and five teams are in the top 25.
It gives us so many chances at big wins, Sobolewski said. Those are so important at the end of the year, to come out of the conference with a certain amount of big wins. With all these ranked teams and really strong teams in our conference, its just unbelievably exciting to know we have a ton of big games on our schedule and were justgonna try to get better and try to beat those teams every night we play them.