The team would rely heavily on their two stars, Crawford and Shurna, while the other three guys on the court tightened up. And not only did it cost them games, but probably a Tournament bid as well. Luckily for the Wildcats, Crawford is a player and person of exemplary character. Not only does he succeed on the court, but was named a second-team Academic All-American this past season and is widely regarded as one of the smartest, most approachable guys in college basketball, and the type of guy Northwestern players and fans can rally around as the face of their program.
“I really think he has been a great ambassador for Northwestern University in terms of his personality off the court,” says Bernfield. “Drew is as classy as they come in the way he treats the media and the way he treats people around the program. He’s a very grounded kid, and I think given his father, Danny Crawford’s, experience as an NBA referee, he’s been exposed to the things the sort of things that he was going to get at Northwestern. I think that has made him very comfortable in what he is.
“His array of talent as a player and person is just so great for the program because you have a guy who you really can put up front and say this is the guy we want to build around and want to represent our program. I think for Drew Crawford to be at the forefront of that first team to make the Tournament would be the ideal situation for Drew and the university because he is a wonderful example of what a college athlete should be.”
While Crawford will be counted upon to carry the team, especially with the loss of Shurna, he won’t be alone. No program can ever replace a guy like John Shurna, the emotional leader and leading scorer in program history, but they can bring in pieces to help offset his loss. The biggest piece to that puzzle was Jared Swopshire, a power forward transfer from the University of Louisville. Swopshire was a key reserve on the Cardinals’ Final Four team last season and not only brings his talent, but also the experience of what it takes to win and how to get to where Northwestern wants to go.
In addition to Swopshire, Carmody brought in a pair of centers in Alex Olah and Chier Ajou (who still needs to be ruled eligible) to give the team some much needed size down low. They also return Dave Sobolewski, a sophomore point guard with a good outside shot, who surprised a lot of people last year as the starting point guard. Guards Alex Marcotullio and JerShon Cobb are also returning.
The pieces are in place for history to be made. The star player. The transfer from Louisville who knows what it takes to win. The head coach who is waiting to seize the moment. And perhaps most of all, a fan base that has been waiting forever for their one shining moment.
“Last year though people seemed to be really passionate about it, looking at the bubble watch and really paying close attention to the team,” says Mandel. “You get your hopes up every year and they toy with the fans each year that I think when their name actually pops up on Selection Sunday you will never see a more elated fan base especially because I get the feeling that if this day ever happens it will be down to the wire, a lot of worrying on selection Sunday in typical Northwestern fashion.”
After all these years of waiting, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Will Northwestern make the NCAA Tournament next year?
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