Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 3/16/14
The NCAA basketball tournament field was announced Sunday, and the Northwestern Wildcats (14-19, 6-12 Big Ten) once again find themselves on the outside looking in. But despite failing to make the tournament for the umpteenth time, this season was full of positives for the team moving forward. Here at Northwestern, tomorrow kicks off Finals Week. So, in spirit of the terrible week that awaits the university’s students, let’s dish out the basketball team’s grades. OFFENSE The Wildcats ranked last in the Big Ten this season in almost all major offensive categories. They averaged just 59.5 points per game, a whole 5.1 points less than second-to-last Illinois. They were also the only team in the Big Ten to have a negative scoring margin, with an average of -3.8 points per game. Northwestern was also the only team to shoot less than 40 percent from the floor (39.6 percent). They shot an even lower 30.6 percent from three, which was also last in conference. Drew Crawford provided one of the team’s few bright spots on offense, scoring 14.9 points per game against Big Ten opponents, making him the conference’s eighth-leading scorer in that department. Grade: D (1.0 GPA) DEFENSE Northwestern played significantly better on defense. In fact, the team had the third-best scoring defense with 63.4 points scored against per game, trailing only Ohio State and Illinois. They also limited opponents to just a 41.1 field goal percentage, again earning them a third-place finish. However, rebounding was the Wildcats’ Achilles heel. They averaged 32.5 rebounds per game—11th in conference, just ahead of Michigan—and were outrebounded by a margin of 4.5 boards a game Grade: B (3.0 GPA) KEY WINS There is no denying Northwestern made conference opponents feel incredibly uncomfortable. They stifled the conference’s best teams on offense and were even able to sneak away with a few major wins. They scored a 49-43 victory over a then-23rd-ranked Illinois squad Jan. 12 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Six days later, they defeated Indiana on the road, holding the Hoosiers to just 25 percent from the floor. Later that month and on the road again, the Wildcats stunned No. 14 Wisconsin, their first win in Madison since 1996. Northwestern would also go on to stun Iowa with a 67-62 win in the first round of the Big Ten tournament March 13. The team became the first No. 11 seed since 1999 to win a tournament game. Grade: A- (3.7 GPA) KEY LOSSES Though Northwestern won some games this season they will cherish for a long time, they had some truly head-scratching losses. In the 3rd game of the season, the Wildcats lost, 68-64, to the Illinois State Redbirds of the Missouri Valley Conference. They also dropped a 57-56 decision to DePaul a couple days after Christmas. Northwestern also went on a month-long stretch in February of seven-straight conference losses, aiding them in finishing 11th in the Big Ten. Grade: C (2.0 GPA) REPORT CARD The Wildcats’ had some great moments this season, as well as some pretty bad ones. While it is sad to see redshirt senior Drew Crawford go, there is plenty to be excited for regarding the team’s future. Coach Collins has already locked up the school’s best ever recruiting class, and he showed his Duke pedigree time and time again this season. While Northwestern should have won a couple more games against non-conference opponents, one can also argue they pulled off some very improbable wins against the Big Ten’s top tier. Overall, Northwestern made positive strides on the court. Overall grade: C+ (2.43) The post Northwestern basketball: Report card appeared first on isportsweb.
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