Well, I don't know about the reasons pre-90s, but if you look at the NU basketball program from the early '90s on, much of the mediocrity can be explained in one word: instability.
Some team members played under 3 or more coaches from the recruitment process to graduation. With every coaching switch comes a new system, lost recruits, disgruntled transfers, disillusioned fans and a quick ticket back to square one.
One reason a lot of "mid majors" have been able to make moves is the NCAA tourney in recent years is that these teams get a core group of seniors who play together for four years, building chemistry and trust with their coach and system while the big-name schools lose players to early entry in the NBA draft and don't get that cohesiveness.
Look at the Big Ten in recent years -- think of where MSU and Indiana would be this year had Jeffries, Taylor, Richardson, etc. stayed in school. They didn't, and a door was opened for other teams to move up. Had NU kept a core group of seniors and coaches together, we could have -- but you can count the number of NU seniors who played significant roles the last three years on one hand. Players like Ben Johnson and Brody Deren are playing elsewhere and the ripple effects of the turnover are still seen in the Cats program.
That said, we finally appear to have a coach who is both competent and wants to stay in Evanston -- something we haven't had in awhile. We have a strong nucleus of underclassmen talent. If we can keep the coaches and players in purple jerseys for the next three years, and add some size through recruiting (remember, coaching changes have hurt our recruiting as well as the transfers), we'll be a much better basketball team and finally make that NCAA bid.
Last year was a sign of what [NU Basketball Coach Bill] Carmody and his staff could do, and a slight setback this year hopefully won't deter fans and the administration. This is a coach we need to keep on the Welsh-Ryan sidelines and a group of young players who hold a lot of promise if we can keep them in Evanston for four years.
We had back-to-back national TV games on Saturdays this year, something I don't remember having before. That will help recruiting. We're not going to get some of the kids other schools will attract, but Bill Carmody seems to have a good idea of who fits into his system and who we can get to commit to NU.
This isn't a rebuilding job, it's a program-building one. I hope the new AD and the university will give Carmody at least five years to try and build something here. He's up to the task, we just can't have a quick trigger finger like we've had before.
NU Basketball and Football for Purple Reign.
He also has his own NU [and other things] oriented web site: SjTonline
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