One of the feel good stories of the 2016-17 college basketball season has turned into one of the most disappointing and head-scratching stories of this year.
Northwestern, after many, many, many close calls, finally ended their run as the only high-major basketball program to have never reached the NCAA tournament last year. And with a roster that was more or less unchanged from a season ago, the overarching consensus was simple: Northwestern would have a chance to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten this year.
That has not exactly gone to plan.
The Wildcats are 13-10 on the season. They are 4-6 in the Big Ten. They have totally and completely been forgotten from a national perspective. I can’t remember the last time I looked at a Northwestern box score, let alone watched a Northwestern game.
And the program is starting to talk about why.
“I kind of knew we weren’t ready,” star point guard Bryant McIntosh told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We weren’t really prepared to play a good team. We weren’t mentally ready. I don’t think we were in shape physically. I’m still not sure we’re even really in shape now.”
“Guys were working hard, but you can always notice when there’s an edge to a team,” head coach Chris Collins said. “There’s an edge to their workouts, when they’re lifting weights, when they’re shooting, when they’re practicing. Our guys were working, but we didn’t have that same edge. We didn’t have that same hunger that I had seen the previous couple years.”
“At the end of the day, I take responsibility for it. I told them, but I wasn’t as strong as I needed to be with it. I would love to go back and have a heavier hand with those guys and force them [to change].”
The running narrative of Northwestern’s season has been that it is easier to be the hunter than the hunted.
That appears to be true.
And, if these quotes are an accurate portrayal of what happened heading into the season, now we know why.