Well, there will be no Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament bracket to trip up your picks. Even so, join the Quickish Readers group of the NCAA Tournament Challenge. Do it now!
So: About Northwestern. I'm trying to decide if I would have rather have had Northwestern not nearly be close to making the Tournament, rather than falling short in the way they did -- basically, by a single game. It didn't have to be yesterday's loss to Minnesota -- there were plenty of close losses against good teams throughout the course of the season. But it was right there: Just beat Minnesota, and NU was as good as in. (I read several bracket experts who said NU also needed to beat Michigan today, but that is a total mis-read of how it would have gone.)
It is epically disappointing. NU has never been this close. In the end, they had their chances. They controlled their own destiny. It was a game they should have won. They -- yes -- choked down the stretch. In the end, I'd rather be achingly close than not close, as painful as this is.
I think the way forward is pretty clear: It's time for Northwestern to fire Bill Carmody -- he has had 12 years to get the program into the NCAA Tournament (let alone turn them into a consistent Tournament team), and he has failed. It's that simple. Going over .500 for four straight years -- going to the NIT consistently -- it's just not enough. This year's team underachieved, and that is on the coach.
My dream would be for the smarties in Evanston to recognize that college basketball coaching salaries are dramatically undervalued -- that the $4 million Tom Izzo makes is a bargain relative to the value he creates.
I would love to see NU offer Butler's Brad Stevens or VCU's Shaka Smart $3 million a year over 10 years -- putting them in the Top 10 coaching salaries in the country, along with guaranteeing stability -- to turn Northwestern into the Duke of the Midwest.
Alas, I don't see NU being willing to pay up to get either of the two best young coaches in college hoops. Beyond that, I don't see Stevens leaving Butler for NU -- at any price, actually -- and I don't see Illinois being out-bid for Smart (even if I could make the case NU is a better job, long-term).
The alternative plan seems pretty obvious: Make an offer to longtime Duke assistant Chris Collins, who is more than ready to take over his own team.
Collins is from the Chicago suburbs, he is young and energetic (particularly in recruiting, where Carmody has been woeful) and he wouldn't cost a fortune. I could also see him being entirely comfortable with NU as a long-term home.
Let me continue fantasizing: He could make an instant splash by selling No. 1 high school prospect Jabari Parker on the idea of spending his one-and-done year in his hometown Chicago as the anchor for Northwestern's breakthrough team.
(Ironically, nearly 20 years ago, Northwestern nearly recruited lead Coach K assistant Tommy Amaker to take the NU job, only to see Amaker walk away when NU refused to allow him to recruit the same risky academic cases he was able to bring into Duke.)
If this season's epic let-down results in a regime change from the underwhelming Carmody era to a fresh start with Collins (or Smart or someone else), maybe some good can come of the bad.
*The Pac-12 deserves a single bid -- to its conference tournament champ. Its "bubble" teams (barely) -- Washington and Oregon -- both lost in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament yesterday, an utter (if predictable) humiliation.
*Big East: The conference-realignment stuff never really bothered me, but as a longtime watcher of the Big East Tournament, I will miss Syracuse's presence.
*Peyton will make up his mind next week: Entirely speculating, I'm going to say it's down to the Dolphins (who will offer the most money) and the Broncos (who would then ship out Tim Tebow to, say, the Jaguars). The Cardinals remain a dark horse.
Selection Sunday is so close. Join in the Tournament Challenge group and pop by Quickish for complete coverage of the bracket reveal and subsequent frenzy.