Travelling to Washington may bring back bad memories for Northwestern. The Wildcats were a game away from the National Invitation Tournament's Final Four at Madison Square Garden, when they dropped an overtime contest at Washington State.
Now, the Wildcats are only in the NIT's second round and they find themselves making another trip out west. NU will play top-seeded Washington in Seattle Friday (9, ESPNU, 560-AM). The winner will advance to the quarterfinals and play the winner of Oregon/Iowa.
"Those are two different years and two different games," Drew Crawford said.
And if the Wildcats (19-13) can knock off Washington (22-10) they will have their third consecutive 20-win season. But then that begs the question: Is that enough to save coach Bill Carmody's job?
Carmody has one year left on his contract and athletic director Jim Phillips will evaluate Carmody after the season.
The Wildcats barely hung on to beat Akron in the first round Tuesday, eeking out a 76-74 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena. NU blew a 15-point lead and allowed the Zips to get back in the game quickly.
NU can't afford to do that against top-seeded Washington. If the Wildcats, a four seed, find themselves trailing the Huskies they need to get the ball in John Shurna's hands. The senior forward surpassed the 2,000 career point mark against Akron, becoming the 27th player in Big Ten history to hit that point total.
"At the same time, we want the best shot for the team," Shurna said. "If Drew has a hot hand, then we want to keep feeding him as long as we could. That's how it goes. It's a feel for the game."
The Huskies were spurned by the NCAA selection committee after having won the Pac-12 regular season title. Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar hopes this tournament run can change people's perceptions about the weak Pac-12.
Compared to the Big Ten, which sent six teams to the NCAA tournament, the Pac-12 sent two teams in Colorado and California. But California lost to South Florida 65-54 in a play-in game Wednesday night.
"It may be hard to change the total perception [of the league], because people's opinions of a particular conference are formed by January," Romar said. "And then it's hard to displace that label."