Carmody eyes first NCAA tourney berth

Updated: February 15, 2010, 11:58 PM ET
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Northwestern coach Bill Carmody is enjoying the growing enthusiasm on campus for his basketball team, but he knows what it's going to take for that buzz to ignite over the school's first NCAA tournament berth.

The Wildcats (17-8, 6-7 Big Ten), who came from 13 down to beat Minnesota in overtime on Sunday, need to win four of their five remaining conference games.

"We're only 6-7 in the conference, and I told our guys after the game yesterday, if you want to be in the discussion, you have to win four out of the next five games," Carmody said Monday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "Then you're 10-8 in the conference, and I think you have a pretty good case."

Northwestern has home and road games left with Penn State (8-16, 0-12), a home game against Iowa (9-17, 3-10) and road contests against Wisconsin (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP; 19-6, 9-4) and Indiana (9-15, 3-9). It also plays a non-conference game against Chicago State (7-20).

"We haven't been very good on the road," Carmody said. "We only had one road win, and that was at Michigan, and we were down 16 in the game. We came back and won.

"So we have to prove we can win on the road, and we still have three games left."

Carmody doesn't resent skeptics who don't believe the 'Cats have a chance to make the tourney. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi told the Tribune he had a better chance of dating Scarlett Johansson than NU has of making the tournament.

"Is he a good-looking guy or what?" Carmody said. "He's going by history ... he's looked at that track record, as a lot of people have, and that's what he believes. That's his opinion.

"We're playing pretty well, though."

The skeptics haven't tempered the buzz on campus.

"It might have started with football, the last couple of years they're had some pretty nice teams," Carmody said. "And [coach Pat Fitzgerald] is doing a really good job, and there's some excitement there; a buzz around that program.

"With the size of a school like Northwestern -- there's 7,500 people -- there's a real carry-over. We have some pretty exciting young guys, and I think fans are latching onto them."

Carmody said he hasn't broached the subject of a tourney bid with his players.

"I haven't talked to them at all," he said. "There's so much information out there. All these guys know it. The blogs, and this and that, and you guys, everybody, right?

"The media talks about it so much, they're all aware of what it takes and they know the history. But we have a lot of young guys on our team, and they think they're starting history. Even now, they recognize what's happened in the past, but they think they're a different team. So that's good."

Carmody is hoping Northwestern is reaching the point where it's in the NCAA tournament conversation every year.

"I'd like that to be the case," he said. "I thought we had a pretty good team last year, and then this year I think we're better. We had a nice recruiting class, and a couple of guys [will come] back who are injured, so I think we're in pretty good shape to continue.

"It would mean an awful lot [to get the bid], almost everything. ... It would help recruiting so much. All the people who have gone through here and played, it would mean an awful lot. We had a reunion this weekend, a lot of guys came back who played, and they're just real excited about it, as a lot of alums are."

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