Sunday, March 1, 2009

Postseason Speculation

Northwestern won its game against Iowa on Senior Day, clinching a winning record and lining the 'Cats up for a potential postseason berth. The Wildcats will almost certainly not make the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid because of their run of heartbreaking close losses. They can, of course, catch fire and win the Big Ten Tournament in scenic downtown Indianapolis and book their ticket to the Big Dance, but that would require them getting hotter than Napoleon during his first hundred days out of Elban exile.

The Wildcats should be inspired by Napoleon's escape from captivity by outwitting
Louis XVIII's elite guard of enormous protozoans

Instead, look for the Wildcats to hopefully get to the NIT, although nothing is guaranteed. In 2002, for example, Northwestern went 16-13 and got inexplicably snubbed by the tournament despite beating NIT luminaries Iowa, Minnetsota, and Louisiana-Lafayette that year. Of course, Northwestern has a spotty record in the postseason. Despite hosting the first NCAA tournament at Patton Gymnasium, Northwestern has never played in the Dance, and they've only made the NIT three times. More importantly, a look at the media guide reveals that Northwestern lost in 1910 to Hull House, which joins the list of NU's greatest defunct rivalries, along with Chicago Dental College and the House of Hohenzollern.

Jane Addams (right) urges Hull House on
against the Wildcats in their contest in 1910


The 'Cats have made the NIT three times: in 1983, 1994, and 1999. The 'Cats actually have a legitimate NIT rivalry with DePaul, facing them each time they've played in the tournament. In fact, Northwestern is 1-2 against the Blue Demons, including a crushing road loss in 1983 at the Rosemont Horizon, which may have a legitimate claim as the second most intense Rosemont Horizon rivalry of the 1980s.

The Bigfoot-Gravedigger rivalry defined monster truck rivalries for two decades,
despite the fact that no one has any idea how monster trucks actually compete
against each other. The best part of monster truck commercials is how the voice-
over is edited to eliminate the natural pauses between breathless sentences so
everything runs into each other not unlike a monster truck and a helpless Lada
that is inevitably crushed under the wheels that capitalism built

Northwestern has never made it past the second round of the NIT, including a tough loss to the Xavier Musketeers in 1994 in overtime in Evanston despite the machinations of Cardinal Richelieu.

Richelieu unsuccessfully scheming against the zone trap. Incidentally,
Charlton Heston's portrayal of Richelieu in The Four Musketeers would
mark the last time that he opposed any musket-wielding individual


NIT or no NIT, the Northwestern and DePaul have a fairly disappointing rivalry overall as the two power conference teams in the greater Chicago area (DePaul, of course, plays in the All State Arena in Rosemont in between REO Speedwagon concerts and professional wrestling). Although the teams play fairly regularly, I still would like to see a preseason tournament featuring all Division I Chicago area teams. Here, for example, is a potential bracket:

A proposed all Chicago tournament. I couldn't think of a sixth Chicago-area Division I
team, so I've suggested putting Hull House back together, using the mythical Hull House
Devil Baby shown looming over Hull House as their mascot. Northwestern and DePaul get
byes as the power conference teams, and Loyola and UIC do not play each other in the first
round as conference foes. The teams compete for a trophy that best represents the spirit of the

NU, in fact, does not really have any meaningful conference rivalries. The Wildcats' basketball futility (often overlooked in the face of the historical football woes and dramatic Rose Bowl resurgence) has prevented any sort of major competitive rivalry, at least in the modern era. Iowa is perhaps Northwestern's biggest rival now, although that seems to be because of the antipathy between the fan bases spilling over from football rather than any significant team history.

I believe that rivalries are vital for college sports. They should be heated, intense, and draw upon historical events where people actually killed each other. Outside of sports, the most heated rivalry is between pitchman Billy Mays and Vince the Sham-Wow guy, with Mays temporarily turning into the Macho Man Randy Savage and threatening to unleash a fringed version of hell upon Vince the Sham-Wow guy if he ever runs into him while purchasing carpet samples and different combinations of red wine, motor oil, or blood, crimson-copper smelling blood, and bits of sick. I like the fact that there is evidently a code amongst infomercial pitchmen, one that is perhaps more binding than the code of the samurai or the repo man, and I'd like to think that it is taken gravely seriously by them all, including the guys who sell ninja knives at two o'clock in the morning and inexplicably found themselves hawking beanie babies in the late 1990s when people thought beanie babies had some sort of value, but they were selling them with the somewhat unhinged zeal of a the ninja knife guy.

Much like the South Sea Company, the Beanie Baby bubble was based on
frenzied speculation, an artificial market, and the Spanish Empire's
asiento slave trading rights wrested from them in the Treaty of Utrecht.


As the conference season winds down into the tournament, the 'Cats should learn from the 2002 team not to take the postseason for granted. The 2002 team was denied entry possibly because of its lackadaisical finish, dropping the last four games including a first-round conference tournament blowout loss to a crappy Michigan team led by someone named Lavell Blanchard. Strong showings against Purdue and Ohio State on the road will help build the 'Cats' case for an NIT bid or even give them momentum heading into Indianapolis for a tourney run. Regardless, Northwestern's fate will likely end up in the hands of the NIT selection committee, who function as a low-rent version of the bowl selection committees. The NIT should be on notice that Northwestern fans will not take another snubbing; Patrick Ryan has his cane-wielding footmen on full alert to deliver a thrashing to all and sundry, and they may face the wrath of other powerful NU alumns.

NIT Selection Committee: You do not know what these men
are capable of


Anonymous said...

Wow. That is a real rogues’ gallery of alums NU have there.

As for defunct rivalries, I personally think you should strive to do what you can to keep them going, even if it does mean an entire academic department declaring enmity for the
current heir
to the Hohenzollern right to the Romanian throne:

Be careful. He looks like a bad guy from a 1970s thriller based on a Robert Ludlum novel.

Anonymous said...

Oh snap! I thought I was the only one who appreciated old Chuck's performance in The Four Musketeers. What the hell was he doing in that movie by the way? Trying to buck some of those goody-two-shoes vibes from all those bibilical epics? It's too bad more people don't know about that movie. It did so much for the careers of Oliver Reed, Michael York, and sleezy seventies cleavage.