The news that Kevin Coble won’t be returning to Northwestern for a final season of eligibility after rehabilitating his injured foot may seem like just another bad break for a program that, infamously, has never been to the NCAA tournament. Well, Coble’s decision ain’t good news for the Wildcats, that’s for sure.
Still, I can’t help feeling there’s something of a misunderstanding afoot (har!). Last year in Big Ten play without Coble, NU was already as good on offense as they can reasonably expect to be. Which is to say they were excellent, significantly better than Final Four-bound and oh-so-scary Michigan State, to name one. When your historically star-crossed team is exactly one standard deviation better than your conference on offense, a single player who’s not named LeBron is not going to make a big difference for you on that side of the ball. Gravity is pulling in the opposite direction.
Coble or no Coble, Bill Carmody’s first order of business this coming season was always going to be a word that is missing entirely from this write-up. That word is defense, as in trying to get his team to play some. The English language is simply unable to capture what Northwestern did on that side of the ball last year, so a labored analogy will have to suffice. What Mel Gibson is to political correctness, the Cats were to D in 2010. To parrot a point already made by The Only Colors, if Carmody can get his team to force some misses inside the arc, grab some defensive boards, and, especially, cut down on their astoundingly frequent Big-12-level hacking, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the name Kevin Coble is forgotten.