When Northwestern found out Sunday night that not only had it missed out on the NCAA Tournament, but that it was only a four-seed in the NIT, coach Bill Carmody was disappointed at the news.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I thought we were a higher seed than that. I thought we were, at worst, a two-seed.”
A likely reason for the Wildcats’ puzzling slide is their non-conference strength of schedule. NCAA Tournament committee chairman Jeff Hathaway emphasized that aspect as the reason a number of bubble teams were able to sneak into the tournament, including the controversial inclusion of Iona.
Hathaway praised the Gaels for their 43rd-ranked schedule, which included losses to Purdue and Marshall and wins against Nevada, St. Joe’s and Maryland. Iona did have some bad losses — Fairfield, Loyola-Maryland, Hofstra and Manhattan — but they weren’t penalized for those missteps.
“It’s like bad losses didn’t seem to hurt teams as much as good wins helped them,” Carmody said. “Some teams had some really bad losses, but they were in December so it didn’t seem to matter as much.”
During non-conference play, NU didn’t have any bad losses, but it was 0-2 against teams in the RPI top 50 and its only notable out-of-conference wins came against NIT teams Seton Hall and LSU. Carmody said that NU will have to review how it schedules non-conference games in hopes of increasing its chances to make the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ll definitely look at all the aspects of it, the scheduling,” he said. “I’ll sit down with my staff and (athletic director) Jim Phillips and we’ll just look at everything and see how we can, what we can do from a scheduling standpoint that would help us. We had done that, but maybe we have to do a little more and think about it a little bit differently.”
Carmody said that some of the selection committee’s picks may have been inconsistent with the criteria they put in place. He said he thought NU had done a good job following their current standards.
“It’s evolved and they give you different criteria,” he said. “I thought we had followed those things pretty decently. I’m not arguing that we should’ve gotten in necessarily, but I don’t know if they really followed those things exactly.”
Looking forward, Carmody said that he would like to improve the Wildcats’ schedule — “I want to get the Celtics here,” he joked — but doesn’t have a plan of which teams, exactly, that he would like to bring in. However, he pointed out some high profile matchups in the coming years that could help the strength of schedule improve.
“We have Stanford now for four years; they’ll be coming here next year and that’s a good one to have,” he said. “We go down to Baylor next year. We’re going to have a good schedule next year, I know that; our strength of schedule is going be very good. We have a few games left I think, but we’re pretty solid in there right now.”