Now, at long last, Crawford.
We complain about the lack of NCAA Tournament appearance. But this team has lacked centers, not stars.
Juice Thompson was the glue. He willed the ‘Cats to wins that never belonged to them and was, most of all, loved.
His number three that year? Crawford.
Shurna might have been the best, crowned on Feb. 18, 2012 against Minnesota, when he broke the Northwestern all-time scoring record.
His number two that year? Crawford.
In 2013, it was going to be Crawford's turn. Instead, he was there for the fall. He underwent torn labrum surgery midway through the season. The Wildcats then went on a losing streak that cost Bill Carmody his job.
He bravely chose to stick around for one rise. We were just waiting for his. It finally happened, and we're not sure when Northwestern will come down—if ever.
National Player of the Week honors confirmed what everyone in Evanston realized. This past week, carrying his team, Drew Crawford made the leap. And now, he will be a legend.
With the help of some formerly misfit toys, one of whom is on the clutch streak of a lifetime, Crawford has been the face of the surprise team in college hoops. NU is good because of his sacrifice, and because after Drew disappeared early in the conference season, he turned godly.
In his past two games, the ones worth the accolades, Crawford shot a combined 16-for-24 and 5-of-9 from three-point range while hauling in 13 rebounds. In those two, NU miraculously beat Wisconsin and then miraculously beat Minnesota. Wins like that don't happen around here.
Regardless of what happens from here on out, Crawford gave Northwestern fans a season. He gave them thrills, he blew up Twitter on two Saturday afternoons, and he proved that he was elite.
Only the hopes aren't over. Not with Drew playing like this, his defense better than ever and his offense helping NU score more than 30 points in some games.
He's rebounding, now at 6.8 per contest—upwards of two more than his career average. He's a teammate, buying into the slow-paced, grind-it-out games that suit everyone's style but his.
As Northwestern changed in three weeks, from 0-2 to 5-5, so did Crawford.
Many were rightfully critical of his awful start to Big Ten play. He looked pulseless, passionless, like someone happy to back off. Where was Juice? Where was Shurna? Where was the security blanket?
Turns out, he didn't need one.
This will not be the year remembered as Chris Collins' painful introduction to head coaching and the Big Ten. It will be remembered for the crazy midseason—or perhaps late-season—run that gave people something to cheer for.
NIT hopes are very attainable if the Wildcats win half of their remaining conference games. NCAA Tournament hopes are not very attainable, but there was an unironic article asking the question, so that's already better than expected.
If they were going to succeed, it had to be Crawford's doing. Now, it is. He's the only player to rank top-10 in the Big Ten in both scoring and rebounding. He's the perfect guy to give Northwestern a glimpse of relevance.
We assume Chris Collins will recruit many stars to Northwestern. Thankfully for him, he inherited one. Drew Crawford will go down with the legends.