A promising season came to a disappointing end for Northwestern. In the several March weeks following the NCAA tournament snub, head coach Bill Carmody came under fire.
Frustrated fans called for Carmody's firing while athletic director Jim Phillips took time to evaluate the direction of the program. The seat was hotter than ever for Northwestern's head coach.
It came as a surprise to Carmody's coaching peers that he was under fire.
"I couldn't figure that one out for the life of me," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said, interrupting the initial question. "This guy's one of the best coaches in the game. He has done an unbelievable job [at Northwestern]. I was sort of baffled by that, to be honest with you."
McCaffery's claim was echoed by Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, another fan of Bill Carmody.
"Bill is to me one of the best coaches in the country, I really believe that," said Matta.
No Northwestern team has ever come close to reaching the NCAA tournament than the 2011-2012 Wildcats did, but the group fell just one marquee victory shy of reaching the field. One of the biggest heartbreakers for NU came in a missed upset of Matta's Buckeyes, a team which reached the Final Four.
Matta has led three different teams to the NCAA tournament, totaling 10 appearances in the Big Dance. However, he knows the difficulty of reaching such a milestone.
"When you're trying to climb a mountain," Matta said, "and you're in a league like the Big Ten, it's not as easy as people think, saying, ' We need to make the NCAA tournament.' To [Carmody's] credit, he has put them in a position to be very, very close. There's nobody pulling harder for him to get it than me."
Carmody's record in twelve seasons with Northwestern currently stands at 179-189, though he has school-record 76 wins in the past four campaigns—an all-time mark for the program. The ongoing debate is how to judge Carmody's career with Northwestern; by regular-season success or postseason misses?
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, who has competed against Northwestern for twelve years, judges Carmody's coaching for the heart his teams play with each game.
"You identify a person, a teacher, a coach by how their players develop, how they play," Ryan said. "[Carmody's] teams respect the game, they play the game fast and pretty well. They play together. I always have been impressed with Bill's coaching. I've got the utmost respect for him."
As a longtime friend in the coaching industry, second-year Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers has a close relationship with Carmody. When Chambers accepted the Nittany Lion's vacancy, Carmody was near the front of the line to congratulate him, taking him out to dinner to celebrate.
The respect Chambers has gained for Carmody stems from each practice in advance of a Northwestern matchup.
"The guy is an amazing coach," Chambers said of Carmody. "You need three days to prepare for Northwestern. He does a great job."
Carmody's role as a recruiter for Northwestern isn't an easy one. He must sell aging facilities to a field of recruits limited by high academic requirements. His peers admire NU's success on the recruiting trails under Carmody's leadership.
"With the requirements to get into Northwestern, everything he has to deal with, the challenges that he has, he does an amazing job," said Chambers.
Another season has arrived and the pressure is back on Carmody to lead Northwestern where it has never been before. Now in his thirteenth season with the Wildcats, Carmody has garnered unbridled adoration from his Big Ten rivals.
"He comes every year with the same energy, if not more energized," said Bo Ryan. "He'll be in the NCAA tournament. ... It's going to happen, it's definitely going to happen."