Chicago Sun-Times
with Neil Hayes

March 2013 Archives

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was a big supporter of former Northwestern coach Bill Carmody. I asked him how he thought new coach Chris Collins would fit in in the Big Ten.

"It's going to be great," he said. "Chris has gotten tutelage from, arguably, the best.  And when you look at the schools, as far as academically and all that, there are a lot of similarities. And I think Chris is a great fit. It's going to be fun to have him in the Big Ten.

"I loved having Tommy Amaker from Duke in there when he was at Michigan. It all comes down to a couple of things. He's got to get players in there. They've got to make a total commitment to basketball. There are a lot of factors that go into being successful.

"I've been fortunate with what I've had at Michigan State, and I think if you put a good coach in a situation where everybody from the top down is focused in on the same goal, you're going to get it done.

And I think Chris Collins is going to be a good one to get it done. I love Bill Carmody. There are a lot of different reasons.  There are some way better coaches than myself that are being fired. Some of us are being canonized while others are being fired.

I look at some of those guys, they've done a better job than the job I've done. You've got to be lucky in this profession too."

I talked to many players and assistants coaches about Chris Collins during Duke's open locker room session Thursday in Indianapolis. Here are some of the things I learned that did not make it into my 900-word story.

Here's a transcript of my conversation with Duke freshman Alex Murphy:

"He was the assistant here at Duke that recruited me. We have a very close relationship so yesterday was a bittersweet day. Obviously, I'm so happy for him and his family and the opportunity he has but at the same time I'm upset because me and him have a great relationship and it will be tough to see him go."

I asked Alex what made Collins an effective recruiter.

"He played in college. He's always honest. He won't try to get around things. He'll give it to you straight whether it's what you want to hear or not and that's something that's real important in a relationship, especially a relationship with a coach, who is obviously someone you want to be able to trust while you're at a university."

Then I asked what Collins is like during practices and games.

"He's definitely, definitely animated. He's so passionate about what he does that he gets very excited. He'll get on you for sure but he has a unique way of using tough love. He will get on you then minutes later he'll have his arm around you letting you know how great you are and what you've done and what you need to do." 

Quinn Cook said Collins' departure won't impact Duke's preparations for Friday night's game against Michigan State.

"He's still all in with Duke for the season. This is his last run with us. We want him to go to Northwestern with a national championship."

Cook said Collins is ready for a head-coaching job. 

"He has put in the work here. He has put in the time. He deserves a head-coaching job at a big-time school and I'm sure he's ready for it."

I asked Amile Jefferson what makes Collins different. 

"His enthusiasm, the energy he brings every day, his ability to teach us in a unique way. He's showing us where to be. He still plays a lot. It's like having a guy who has been through Coach K's system who is helping mold the younger guys and teach us. He's an amazing coach. I've loved learning from him."

Jefferson is from Philly and was recruited to Duke by Collins. I asked --- again --- what makes him unique as a recruiter.

"Just him becoming personable with you and making you feel comfortable, being really transparent, letting you know the things you need to do to get better, the things you need to work on, when he recruited me I definitely got familiar with him and the program."


Timing is a likely factor in when Northwestern officially announces Chris Collins as the successor to Bill Carmody.

Duke returned back to Durham, N.C., late Sunday night. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gave Collins permission to interview on Monday in part because Duke players had the day off.

It was back to business Tuesday as the Blue Devils prepared for the regional semifinal game against Michigan State in Indianapolis on Friday night.

Duke is scheduled to travel to Indianapolis on Thursday and practice late Thursday afternoon, which might provide a window for Collins to appear at a press conference in Evanston early Thursday before hustling back to Indy to contribute to Dukes preparations.

If not, and if the Blue Devils continue to advance, the presser might not come until Monday.

Either way, barring an unforeseen setback, it's a matter of "when" and not "if."

Duke assistant Chris Collins interviewed with Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips on Monday at an off-campus location, a source told the Sun-Times, and could be named as Bill Carmody's successor later this week.

From the beginning, this job was Collins' to lose. However, according to the source, the former Glenbrook North standout was so impressive in an interview that he could be named Northwestern's head coach before the Blue Devils play Michigan State in the Midwest Regional semifinals in Indianapolis, Ind., on Friday.

Phillips hired a search firm to help produce candidates other than Collins, who was considered the leading candidate since Carmody was fired on March 16. La Salle coach John Giannini, Valparaiso's Bryce Drew and Bucknell's Dave Paulson are also being considered but the source said it's Collins' job if he wants it.

Former Bulls and current Sixers coach Doug Collins is Chris's father, and said last month that his "dream" job would be to serve as his son's assistant.

Doug's future with the 76ers is unclear after a disappointing season. He recently said he would re-evaluate his future when the NBA season ends. Doug and Chris are very close and speak daily. Doug might also choose to support his son in an unofficial capacity.

Chris Collins was back in Durham, N.C. for Duke's practice Tuesday afternoon but was not made available to reporters. Duke officials said he would not be available for interviews in Indianapolis, either. The team is leaving for Indianapolis on Wednesday, which may provide Collins with another opportunity to meet with Northwestern officials and perhaps even visit the Evanston campus.

A former Mr. Illinois Basketball at Glenbrook North, Collins played four seasons at Duke before joining the coaching staff in 2000. The 38-year-old was named associate head coach in 2008.

Paulson led Williams College to the Division III National Championship in 2003 when Northwestern President Morty Schapiro was the president of that school and has already been contacted by Northwestern officials, according to a source.

Giannini has not only led La Salle to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years but has them in the Sweet 16.

He was a graduate assistant at Illinois when Phillips was the basketball team's student manager.

"He's one of the hot coaches in the NCAA right now," former Illinois coach Lou Henson said of Giannini. "He's won every place he has gone, and he has had some tough jobs. He can teach kids how to play and motivate them. I think he would be a credit to any NCAA team that wants to hire an outstanding coach."

Both Jason Welch (157 pounds) and Mike McMullan (heavyweight) lost in the finals of the NCAA Wrestling Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday night. 

Welch gave up a late escape to No. 2 seed Derek St. John of Iowa and was defeated 3-2. 

McMullan, a redshirt sophomore, lost to defending national champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota 6-2. As the fifth seed, he was the lowest-seeded wrestler to advance to the finals.

Welch closed his Northwestern career as a three-time All-American with a career record of 116-22.

Northwestern wrestlers Jason Welch and Mike McMullan have advanced to the finals of tonight's NCAA Wrestling Championships at Wells-Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

ESPN will broadcast the finals live at 7 p.m.

McMullan advanced to the heavyweight final as the fifth seed. The two-time All-American will face second-seeded Tony Nelson of Minnesota.

Welch is a three-time All-American and is the top seed at 157. He will square off against second-seeded Derek St. John of Iowa.

Northwestern is one of two schools with two wrestlers in the finals.

Imagine this scenario unfolding at Northwestern: Chris Collins is hired as head coach and eventually his father, former Bulls, Wizards and Sixers coach Doug Collins joins his staff.

Doug Collins told the Philadelphia Daily News last month that becoming Chris' assistant is his "dream" job.

Doug, the current Sixers coach, and son Chris, the Duke assistant considered the top candidates for the Northwestern vacancy, talk daily, trading coaching ideas

"Maybe there's something he might see in what we're doing at Duke, and he's always asking me if there are things I think he might be able to do better with his team," Chris told the Daily News. "As I've gotten older, we've been able to lean on each other for advice in coaching, and that is something that has been very special to our relationship."

The two would like to coach together eventually, but think it's best they are on separate staffs now. Doug offered Chris a job on his Wizards staff when he was hired in 2001. Chris declined. He offered Chris another job when the Sixers hired him in 2010.

Again, he declined.

"I think my dream would be for Chris to become a head coach. And I don't know if it could ever happen, because it might be too much pressure, but I would love to be his assistant," Doug said.

Doug also bristles at those who think being at Duke makes recruiting easy for Chris. It's a common perception.

Even people in coaching circles wonder how selecting elite players for Duke would prepare Chris for the kind of brush beating it would take to recruit players to Northwestern.

Such talks irks Doug.

"Everybody thinks that Chris has an easy job, and it really nauseates me," Doug told the Daily News. "They think that all Chris has to do is call a kid up on the phone, Duke's interested in him--they're going to get him. It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my entire life. I hear all of these people say 'Wait until Chris Collins gets his own job and he'll see what stuff is really like.' This silver spoon club that they think Chris has been a part of, and the envy and the jealousy is a little much, sometimes, for me to take. Because I know how hard Chris has worked down there at Duke. And there are a lot of Duke-haters, and that's okay. I will tell you this right now, Chris is a better coach than me."

Jim Phillips said how teams fare in the NCAA Tournament would likely impact the Northwestern athletic director's ability to interview candidates to replace Bill Carmody.

If that's the case, his pool of available candidates increased significantly Thursday when Bryce Drew of Valparaiso, Dave Paulson of Bucknell and Davidson's Bob McKillop saw their teams ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State defeated Valparaiso 65-54 while Butler beat Bucknell 68-56. Twelfth-seeded Davidson led No. 3 Marquette by as much as nine late in the game before the Golden Eagles rallied for a 59-58 win.

Duke assistant Chris Collins is still considered the top candidate, according to several sources, but several other candidates will get the chance to "wow" Phillips and change is mind during the interview process.

La Salle coach John Giannini was a graduate assistant when Illinois make its run to the Final Four in 1989. The Fenwick High and North Central alum knows Phillips well and is also considered a candidate.

Paulson led Williams College to the Division III National Championship in 2003 when Northwestern President Morty Schapiro was the president of that school.

Bryce Drew is the son of longtime Valparaiso coach Homer Drew and the brother of Baylor coach Scott Drew. Some wonder if he has the experience to go head-to-head with elite Big Ten coaches while others believe Homer Drew guidance makes the matter moot.

Bob McKillop is an attractive candidate because Davidson is also a private school that is elite academically and McKillop sometimes competed with Carmody for recruits.

McKillop has coached at Davidson for 20 years. He took his Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2008, has graduated 65 of 65 seniors and is a seven-time Southern Conference Coach of the Year.

"He's done a great job of finding diamonds in the rough and at Northwestern you have to do that," former Northwestern player and current Big Ten Network analyst Tim Doyle said earlier this week. "You have to find a kid before anyone else does. If Michigan and Northwestern offer a scholarship,  9½ times out of 10 the kid is going to go to Michigan. That's just the way it is."

Stephen Curry wanted to follow his famous father Dell's footsteps to Virginia Tech but the school didn't offer him a scholarship. He went to Davidson instead and had 32 points, four assists and nine rebounds against Michigan in his second college game.

Curry went on to become the conference's all-time leading scorer while setting school records for free-throws, 30-point games and 40-point games and an NCAA record for 3-pointers.

He currently plays for the Golden State Warriors.

Here is a list of candidates to replace Bill Carmody at Northwestern. Readers are encouraged to forward names of other candidates and I will research them and add them to the list.

Tommy Amaker --- He was a rising star at Seton Hall before underachieving at Michigan team. He has restored his reputation during a successful run at Harvard.

Jeff Capel --- Unlike Chris Collins, this Duke assistant not only has head coaching experience but took Oklahoma to the Elite Eight in 2009. Before that, he had won 79 games in three years at VCU.

Chris Collins --- Duke's top assistant is a former Glenbrook North standout and he is definitely interested in the Northwestern job, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Keith Dambrot --- Akron coach won back-to-back MAC titles and even coached LeBron James in high school. Akron alum has remained loyal to Zips despite other opportunities.

Billy Donlon --- Wright State coach's father Billy Sr. was Northwestern assistant from 1987-94. Billy used to play pickup games in Patten Gym when he was in junior high.

Bryce Drew --- The Valparaiso coach is the son of longtime Valpo coach Homer Drew and the brother of Baylor coach Scott Drew.

John Giannini  --- LaSalle's all-time winningest coach in Atlantic 10 play is also winningest coach at Maine, his former school. He was also a graduate assistant on the Flying Illini's Final Four team.

Ben Jacobson --- Northern Iowa coach was architect of Panthers historic upset of top-seeded Kansas in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. His contract runs through 2020.

Greg Lansing --- Former Iowa assistant led Indiana State to NCAA Tournament appearance as a rookie head coach last season.

Chris Mack --- Former high school girls basketball coach has led Xavier to 79 games and three NCAA Tournament appearances in three seasons.

Gregg Marshall --- Wichita State coach has led mid-major teams to NCAA Tournament in eight of his 14 seasons as head coach.

Bob McKillop --- Longtime Davidson coach has been named Southern Conference Coach of the Year seven times.

Scott Nagy --- The South Dakota State coach oversaw Jackrabbits transition to Division I and earned an NCAA bid last season. His dad was an assistant for Lou Henson at Illinois.

Dave Paulson --- Bucknell boss has won 78 games in three years. Northwestern President Morty Schapiro was president of Williams College when Paulson led the Ephs to the Division III National Championship in 2003.

Brett Reed --- Lehigh coach has the highest winning percentage of any current coach in the Patriot League. He also has doctoral degree, which might impress at Northwestern.

The father of Northwestern's No. 1 recruit Jaren Sina said his son was unlikely to honor his commitment to the Wildcats if Bill Carmody was fired. Seton Hall, Missouri and several other teams are pursuing Sina with hopes that he will rebuff the 'Cats now that Carmody is gone.

Mergin Sina, Jaren's dad, did not return a phone call Saturday. 

Pat Taphorn, the father of Northwestern recruit Nathan Taphorn, a forward from Pekin High, said he was disappointed but not surprised to learn of Carmody's firing.

"We liked coach Carmody a lot so it's hard to hear it and accept it but we knew there was a chance and prepared ourselves for it," Taphorn said. "The big variable is getting someone else in that spot and figuring out what kind of person they are, what their system is about and whether Nathan will fit into that system. I know Jim Phillips will get someone in that spot that's pretty highly regarded."

Here's what NU athletics director Jim Phillips had to say about he possibility of losing Sina and Taphorn.

"I made initial contact with them and I will have a chance to speak to them [Saturday night]," Phillips said. At the end of the day, I hope they chose Northwestern for a variety of reasons, including, of course, coach Carmody and his staff. That certainly influenced their decision. But what I hope they realize is this is a place that would welcome them. They would have a chance to be part of our Northwestern family. It is one of the finest academic institutions in the country, it plays in the best basketball conference in the country. There's an awful lot of good things to tell them about. Ultimately, I'm going to support whatever they want to do."

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo on Bill Carmody firing:

"You know, I understand we're in a profession where it's win or not. I swear to God the guy is a hell of a coach and even a better person, and I'm not going to get into all the logistics of everything because everyone has got to make their own decision, but sometimes fate isn't with you. I've never seen a guy go through more injuries to key people. I hope they know what they're doing. I'm sure they do because he is a hell of a coach, and he's really good for our profession. You know, he's been a head [coach in] the Big Ten and I've had a chance to deal with him.

"I called him this morning. It saddens me, sickens me.

"I understand that -- I mean, [former Michigan State football coach] George Perles sent me a note the first day I got the job, you will be fired, it's just a matter of when, so understand that. I think there's a reality and truth to that. It's a little different from last year's situation for me. I understand some of it.

"But poor guy, about two or three times I thought had teams that were going to get to the NCAA Tournament, and then the injuries just mounted up, and this year's was almost -- it was incredible. So I feel bad. I hope he stays in coaching because he is a hell of a coach."

Indiana coach Tom Crean:

"The first thing that came to my mind is when [defensive coordinator] Rob Ryan lost his job with the Dallas Cowboys. He said he would be out of work about five minutes. I doubt Bill Carmody will say that but that should be the case.

"He's a great basketball coach. He's done a phenomenal job at the university. He did a phenomenal job long before that. He should be one of the more higher demand coaches. All anybody should have to look at is what Bruce Weber has done this year at Kansas State after leaving Illinois. Bill Carmody should get the same opportunity in some other league and I'd be shocked if he didn't have great success.

"I don't now him well personally but I know him enough to have great respect for him. What I see on film and going against him, I have incredible respect for."

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan:

"I know administrators have a profession, the university officials have a profession, and coaches have a profession. So whatever decisions are made in that profession, I'm not going to get into.

I can tell you this: Bill has not forgotten anything about the game. He knows the game. His system is so tough to prepare for, and, you know, he did a lot of good things. I know he's very well respected in the coaching field and I know he's a guy that has done our profession a lot of good and he's made us proud.

"All I can say is I wish Bill the best of luck because I have a hell of a lot of respect for him. [Some] decisions are made are made by other people, but you won't find a coach that won't tell you that they respect Bill Carmody. They all do, top to bottom."

Ohio State coach Thad Matta:

"Two things: Number one, I think Bill Carmody maybe has the best offensive mind of any coach I've ever seen in my life. And the second thing is, knock on wood, I think he could be the most unlucky with the injuries just in the time that I've been in this league [nine years]. It is amazing to see the things that have happened to his teams, and they happened in such a timely fashion. I mean, I think we were No. 1 in the country a couple years ago, and John Shurna runs into a basket support and has a concussion, can't play against us, we go down to the wire, and he was playing at such a high level.

"You look at who could win and keep coaching those guys and stay competitive with what he lost this year, it's mindboggling.

"You get to know guys, I think he's one of the greatest human beings, and like I said, I think he can coach as well as anybody.

But unfortunately that's kind of how this business goes. But I hate to see it. I hate to see that happen to anybody."

The father of a second Northwestern recruit said he and his son would have to "weigh their options" if coach Bill Carmody does not return for the final year of his contract next season.

Patrick Taphorn wouldn't go as far as Mergin Sina, who told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that it's unlikely his son Jaren would honor his commitment if Carmody is fired, but he did say it would force he and his son to reconsider their options.

Carmody is expected to discuss his future with Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips when the season ends, which could come as soon as tonight if the Wildcats fall to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center.

Nathan Taphorn averaged 16 points and seven rebounds per game for Pekin High School this season while shooting 48 percent from the floor, 41 percent from behind the arc and 85 percent from the free-throw line.

"We're very, very hopeful coach Carmody will remain coach at Northwestern," Patrick Taphorn said. "That was one of our concerns when we committed to Northwestern. We wanted Nathan to play for the same coach for four years. We like coach Carmody and his staff and his system and feel Nathan could thrive there."

Nathan received scholarship offers from Creighton, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Colorado, Boston College, Colorado State, Bradley and Southern Illinois, among others.

"We would have to weigh our options but Northwestern is an incredible institution educationally and that's first and foremost," Patrick Taphorn said. "Secondly, the Big Ten is the best conference in the country and Evanston is three hours from our house. That comes into play as well."

Here are some more odds and ends from Pat Fitzgerald's conversation with reports after Tuesday's spring football practice:

"I like the fact that we moved spring ball up to this point," he said of the decision to move spring ball up a week. "We're seven [practices] in so I guess we're halfway through. A lot of our young guys retention from bowl practices has been outstanding. We've been able to progress at pace we wanted to when we were afraid we wouldn't be able to because we moved it up a little bit. The guys have done a great job in the film room and studying their playbook on their own. Our retention has been pretty good."

But doesn't that mean players will have more time to forget what they learned this spring before training camp starts?

Anyway, Fitz also likes what he has seen form his running backs. Venric Mark is entrenched as the starter but this is one of the deeper positions on the roster.

Not only will senior Mike Trumpy have a role but the competition between junior Treyvon Green and redshirt freshmen Stephen Buckley and Malin Jones is ongoing.

"Both guys are very explosive and can run," Fitz said of Buckley and Jones. "Both men catch the ball very well out of the backfield. They are both picking the system up very well. It's not only things that will help us in the backfield but I think they will really help us in the kicking game.

"We've got really sold depth there right now with the way Treyvon Green has come on this spring. He's lost some weight and is moving really well. Mike Trumpy is having a really good spring. It's nice to see him healthy for a couple phases in a row. It's kind of a bad deal for Michael. He has a healthy phase and then he struggles to stay healthy. "[Venric] has been very determined, very focused and his energy level is very high. His attitude has been terrific. That whole group is playing at a very high level."

The Big Ten Network hosted a luncheon Tuesday to preview the Big Ten Tournament, which starts Thursday at the United Center. Naturally, most of the talk centered on regular-season conference champion Indiana and the teams with the best chance of upending the No. 3 Hoosiers starting Thursday.

Afterwards, BTN analysts Jim Jackson and Shon Morris discussed the future of Northwestern basketball and coach Bill Carmody.

"It's a complicated deal because it's hard to judge," Jackson said. "He had some big wins this year --- Minnesota at home, Illinois on the road. Look at the injuries he had to deal with. Three or four of your best players are on the sideline. There's history in regards to Bill not making the tournament but the last two years you were on the cusp of really doing something and something was there to take away from that. This year, it was the injuries."

Northwestern plays Iowa in the first-round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday night at approximately 8 p.m. If the Wildcats lose, Carmody can expect to meet with athletics director Jim Phillips to discuss his future sometime this weekend.

Nobody knows which way Phillips will go. An upset of Iowa wouldn't hurt Carmody's cause but a blowout loss might.

Jackson is right about one thing. It is a complicated issue.  You have to spend time around the program to truly understand it.

I hate to keep harping on facilities, but the difference between Northwestern and the rest of the league is already a chasm and it keeps growing every year with no end in site.

Completing the new athletics complex near the lake is the first order of business. It could easily be eight years or longer before basketball facilities get desperately-needed upgrades.

Some Northwestern fans don't fully comprehend how far the Wildcats lag behind because they don't see the state-of-the-art facilities at other schools.

"The best way to put it is if facilities is an arms race, Northwestern basketball right now is fighting a nuclear war with a cap gun," said BTN analyst Shon Morris, the 10th leading scorer in school history. "That's as simple as I can put it. The newest addition to the league, Nebraska, their facilities are off the charts. Everybody is investing in facilities and I would like to think it's not an important thing but it's very important. Everybody thinks about the fan experience but the ultimate consumer when you're building something like that is the 18-year old kid who is deciding where he's going to go. They want to see where they are going to be playing and where they will be training and if you're stuff isn't even on the lead lap, that's a lot to overcome."

Jackson knows about Big Ten recruiting. Not only did he star at Ohio State but his son Traevon is finishing up his sophomore year at Wisconsin.

"You have to have a commitment in terms of facilities if you want to go get recruits," Jackson said. "It's not just the arena. You can add some amenities in the arena and change some things but the practice facility is so critical when you go out to recruit because that's where most of the guys spend the majority of their time and if you don't have those kinds of things you're not going to get the kind of players you want to attract."

When asked how a coach could overcome a lack of facilities, Jackson said: "You can't."

Morris said the Wildcats could finally make the tournament next year if incoming recruit Jaren Sina remains loyal and senior Drew Crawford returns. There's no guarantee Sina would come to Evanston if Carmody is fired. Crawford could decide to play elsewhere since he will have aready graduated and therefore could transfer as a graduate student without sitting out a year.

"If everything holds form with recruits and we will all need to see what that might be, they have a chance in the league, with the other players who might leave early, they would certainly be in the discussion for being in the upper four or five in the league or in that middle part that would give you a chance to get into the tournament depending once again on how they schedule their nonconference games," said Morris, who was a longtime Northwestern athletics department employee until last September. "If everyone were to come back and everyone were to stay healthy, with a couple question marks with [JerShon] Cobb and Crawford, you'd have a chance to have a pretty good ballclub in a league that is going to be very, very good but chances are not as outstanding from top to bottom as it is this year."

Watch the Northwestern offense during spring practice and it doesn't look that much different than last season. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian continue to share snaps at quarterback. Running back Venric Mark is a blur with the ball under his arm. The receiving corps returns minus Demetrius Fields.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald will have to replace Patrick Ward and Brian Mulroe up front. Right tackle Jack Konopka is recovering from injuries this spring but will move to left tackle in time for fall camp. 

Guard Brandon Vitabile is a two-year starter who is also expected to ready for training camp.

In the meantime, Fitzgerald is getting a long look at some players who could be key contributors down the road. 

"We recruited well there," Fitzgerald said of his young linemen. "Obviously, Brandon is the mainstay now with the group. He has played a ton of football. He has been incredibly critical with himself with the way he's executing the little things. He's at that point in his career. He's doing a really good job. To his left, I like the way Geoff Mogus and Adam DePietro have been playing. They've done a really good job from a standpoint of competing and trying to execute what Adam is asking them to do. On the right side, Ian Park has done a really good job. Ian has had a terrific spring. Hayden Baker has done a good job at center and at guard and then on the right side, we've had [Eric] Olsen starting things off and Shane [Mertz] on the left side. The whole group has done a really good job. Now, I say that from a standpoint of where we are at currently. We're in about Chapter 3. They've done well. They've handled things well."

Offensive line coach Adam Cushing's mantra this spring is, "When in doubt, hit somebody."

"They are finally getting over being afraid to fail, and being analytical," Fitzgerald said. "It's a very bright group. Adam does a great job of emphasizing that it's better to be decisive than it is to be right. Go put your face on somebody and Venric and our backs and Kain and Trevor will make you right. If you're out there, 'Who do I block,' that garbage, well, that's what young guys do. They've done a good job of cutting it lose and making some mistakes and learning from it and not repeating them at a high level. They have repeated at a lower level and that shows some progress and is encouraging."

Reggie Hearn was named as an honorable mention all-Big Ten performer on Monday by the league's media members.

The senior from Fort Wayne, Ind., was a walk-on who played only 72 minutes his first two seasons before earning a scholarship and starting every game he appeared in as a junior and senior.

Hearn averaged 13.2 points and was Northwestern's leading scorer this season. He scored 20 points or more four times.

Hearn also earned Northwestern's Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.

Northwestern will host Michigan at Wrigley Field at 6:05 p.m. on April 20, the University and the Cubs announced Monday.

General admission tickets cost $7 go on sale Friday, March 15, at 10 a.m both at the Northwestern box offices and Tickets.com.

"We're so grateful to the entire Chicago Cubs organization for opening the doors to this historic venue and for allowing Chicago's Big Ten Team to play a game at their beautiful facility," said Northwestern head coach Paul Stevens. "Whether you grew up in Chicago or California, if you're a ballplayer, you've dreamt of one day playing at Wrigley Field, one of the iconic sporting venues in the world. Northwestern and Michigan will get that chance on a very special night and we're all looking forward to the occasion."

There has been a major developmental component to Northwestern's season from the start. Developing the four freshmen in the rotation became even more important after injuries to seniors Drew Crawford and Jared Swopshire.

That's why Sunday night's loss to Michigan State was somewhat encouraging. Freshmen Kale Abrahamson scored a career-high 16 points while center Alex Olah had one of his better all-around games in a 71-61 loss to the No. 10 Spartans.

Whether that's enough for coach Bill Carmody to convince athletics director Jim Phillips that he should return for a 14th season remains to be seen. Carmody's future is the biggest question looming over the program heading into Thursday night's game against Iowa at the United Center in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

"You want to be on stable ground," Carmody said when asked about the state of his program. "You want the talent level to be good enough so that you can compete with all the teams. You want to be in the top half of the conference because if you do you get a bid. That's what we've been trying to do. We had some injuries this year. You're never sure what's going to happen but I think that really hurt this team. But next year I think we're going to be solid. With every program you just try to keep the talent level good in all your classes and when you do that you're usually going to be pretty successful."

An upset in the Big Ten Tournament would help Carmody's cause, although it's a tall order for the injury-depleted Wildcats, who lost to the Hawkeyes 70-50 on Jan. 13 and 71-57 on Feb. 9.

"Obviously, I have tremendous respect for Bill and the job he has done," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "I do know they are a very difficult team to play against and prepare for. We have beat them twice this year but we had lost to them a bunch of times in a row. If you watched them [Sunday] you see how difficult they are to guard when they're making shots. You see the improvement of an Abrahamson and [Tre] Demps. Those two guys in particular have really impressed me. There was the unfortunate injury to Swopshire. Olah has improved. You see a team that has continued to battle despite an incredible rash of injuries no coach would want to endure. We have tremendous respect for this team."

McCaffery tried to convince Abrahamson to come to Iowa before he decided on Northwestern. Abrahamson played for ex-Iowa Standout Jeff Horner at Valley High in West Des Moines.

"There are a few freshman who come in and are really ready to go right from September but most take a little time," Carmody said. "He had nine rebounds in the game against Ohio State and started to be more interested going to the offensive board and overall things are slowing down for him a little bit so he's not quite as anxious. He's gotten to the basket a couple times nicely. It's just the normal growth you have. His feel is getting a lot better. I don't know if it's so much getting open for shots --- I guess that's true --- but he has a better understanding of things and has calmed down some."

Northwestern had won five in a row against Iowa until this year. McCaffery had lost his first four games against Carmody and his Princeton offense, which can be especially effective against coaches not used to defending the back-door cuts that are its signature.

In fact, that could be another factor in Phillips decision to retain Carmody. The stability in the Big Ten coaching ranks means Carmody and the Wildcats will likely not benefit from playing teams not used to their unique style.

"The more times you go against it the better off you are," McCaffery said. "The first time we played them they cleaned our clocks. If I'm not mistaken, they had 14 3s in that game. Last year, of course, with [John] Shurna and Crawford, those guys can make plays and make baskets, particularly at crunch time. This team is different. You've got some new faces. They were expecting Drew Crawford and Jared Swopshire. It's still the same offense. You still have to understand that whatever you take away they're going to get you somewhere else, the counters and everything they do is so intricate it ultimately requires a sustained effort by five people working together simultaneously. That's exactly what they are doing on the other side. It's five people working together with screen action and handoffs. You can't let up, especially with the way they shoot the 3."

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2013 is the previous archive.

April 2013 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.