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Northwestern settles for another trip to NIT

Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody directs his team first half an NCAA college basketball game against Minnesotfirst round Big Ten

Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody directs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Minnesota at the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

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• vs. Akron, 8 p.m. Tuesday

Updated: April 13, 2012 10:37AM

There was little chance Northwestern would get an NCAA tournament bid Sunday, especially
after losing in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday in Indianapolis. But there was still a sliver of hope.

Reality set in, though, when
six Big Ten teams were called during the NCAA tournament
selection telecast — but not the Wildcats.

So instead of preparing for what would have been a historic first appearance in the NCAA tournament, NU will practice for Akron and a first-round game in the National Invitation Tournament. The Wildcats (18-13) will host the Zips (22-11) on Tuesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena (8 p.m., ESPN2) in their fourth consecutive NIT appearance.

‘‘The seniors are really disappointed they didn’t get an NCAA bid,’’ coach Bill Carmody said. ‘‘We’re disappointed, but we move on. We’ve never had a postseason champion in basketball here.’’

NU’s RPI fell to 63 on Sunday from a high of 43 a month ago. That RPI, the overtime loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament and the lack of a signature victory since their upset Jan. 14
of Michigan State doomed the Wildcats’ chances of making the NCAA field.

So what does another trip to the NIT do for the program? Carmody is staying positive. NU’s
seniors became the winningest class in school history this season, and Carmody is convinced the
juniors — Drew Crawford and Alex Marcotullio, to name two major players — will end up with the most victories in school history next season.

‘‘I think things are looking good, and we’ve never been in this situation before,’’ Carmody said.

Indeed, the Wildcats will finish above .500 for the fourth consecutive season in the Carmody era. To date, though, the deepest they have advanced in the postseason has been the NIT quarterfinals last season. And after all the NCAA hype of the last month, many disgruntled alums are calling for Carmody to be fired.

Carmody has one year left on his two-year deal. Athletic director Jim Phillips declined to comment about Carmody’s future or about where he sees the program going — Phillips’ policy is not to discuss coaches or programs until their seasons are over — but he said he increased media attention the last few weeks is good for
future recruits.

‘‘That amount of talk and
attention is a good thing, and it’s a new place for us,’’ Phillips said. ‘‘All that is going to have a positive effect on our program and the

Phillips likely will keep Carmody for the last year of his contract, but he might have to cut the cord after next season. After all, Carmody was hired by former AD Rick Taylor back in 2000, and Phillips likely would want his own pick to lead the program.

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