NU head coach Bill Carmody would enter his 13th season as head coach in Evanston, and the final year of his contract. Carmody has guided Northwestern to a level of success never seen in the program's history, but it hasn't been enough to reach the Big Dance.
The Wildcats' season will end in the NIT, a sad exit for the NU's winningest senior class and its all-time leading scorer, John Shurna. The offseason begins work toward another run for history, this time with a new core of players. Is change at the top necessary too?
Carmody has served 12 seasons as head coach with Northwestern. Only seven major conference coaches have held position longer. Six of those coaches have reached the final four (26 in total), and the group has combined for 11 national championships.
Carmody's résumé is complicated. He is second on Northwestern's all-time wins list, trailing only Dutch Lonborg (236 wins from 1927-1950). Lonborg did, however, win two Big Ten titles and the 1931 Helms Foundation title.
The Northwestern basketball program has taken a tremendous step forward under Carmody's leadership. With two wins in the NIT, the Wildcats can earn a 20-win season for the third straight year. NU has won 75 games since the 2008 season. Carmody has taken the Wildcats from a perennial bottom dweller to a winner.
This season, Northwestern faced its greatest chance to make the NCAA Tournament, but heartbreaking losses to Illinois, Purdue, Michigan (twice), Ohio State, and Minnesota would crush hopes of dancing.
As a recruiter, Carmody continues to improve. Kale Abrahamson and Sanjay Lumpkin, two of NU's 2012 signees, could each make a signficant impact next season. He turned two-star David Sobolewski into one of the nation's best freshman point guard. Though, his greatest success in recruiting was John Shurna, who was given a shot with the Wildcats. Let's just say that guy was good.
However, under Carmody, Northwestern has struggled at the center position. During NU's two most successful seasons (2010-11 and 2011-12), rebounding was a constant problem, especially in conference play. Next season, NU has freshman Alex Olah and former TCU big man Nikola Cerina at the center position.
As a whole, Carmody has done a fine job finding talent to fit his Princeton offense. Those players are able to succeed in the competitive Northwestern classrooms, and there have rarely been off-the-field issues for Carmody's players. Surely, he deserves to be commended for that.
The debate is how to measure Carmody's success as head coach with Northwestern, by the unparalleled success, or the one mountain left to climb?
That question is left for Jim Phillips to answer. We'll find out shortly.