Northwestern released their non-conference schedule this week and it’s … well … not good.
Take a look:
Nov. 13: UMass-Lowell
Nov. 18: Evanston
Nov. 20: Columbia
Nov. 23-24: CBE Classic (North Carolina, Missouri, Kansas State)
Nov. 28: New Orleans
Dec. 1: Virginia Tech
Dec. 5: SIU-Edwardsville
Dec. 13: Chicago State
Dec. 15: Mississippi Valley State
Dec. 19: at DePaul
Dec. 21: Sacred Heart
Dec. 27: Loyola (MD)
If they don’t end up squaring off with UNC in the CBE Classic, we’re looking at a situation where the Wildcats could be devoid of an NCAA tournament team in their non-conference schedule. Three of the four non-conference programs they could end up playing — DePaul, Va. Tech and Missouri — could end up in last place in their respective conferences. Kansas State might not be that far removed from the cellar.
That said, there may be a reason behind all of this. Northwestern needs to learn how to win. They need to develop confidence in late-game situations. They need to be made to believe that they can close out games. The Wildcats finished last season 15-17, but they were far more competitive than their record would have you believe. There was a five game stretch in the middle of conference play where Northwestern lost consecutive heartbreakers: at Michigan State, Illinois, at Michigan, Ohio State and at Maryland. That spawned a nine game losing streak that more or less ruined the season.
Winning is a skill. Having the confidence to execute in crunch time — “clutchness”, if you will — is not easily developed. Maybe this is Chris Collins’ way of trying to do that.
But it’s risky. The NCAA tournament selection committee certainly won’t be moved by this.