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Saturday, March 23, 2024

Northwestern v. UConn

Northwestern, appearing in its third NCAA Tournament and second in a row, beat FAU 77-65 in OT in the first round. I was teaching during most of the game. I tuned in with a minute left and NU down two (I later found out we had gagged away a nine-point lead); saw us tie the game on a lay-up with 3 seconds left; then watched us blow FAU away in OT by making our first 9 shots (5 baskets and four FTs). The prize for the win is playing UConn--the defending national champion and # 1 overall seed. This is the first time Northwestern and UConn have ever played in basketball.

That brought me back to the spring of 1986, when I was a Northwestern-bound HS senior, planning to work as a student manager for the basketball team. Northwestern and UConn had coaching openings. Northwestern offered the job to Jim Calhoun, then at Northeastern. Calhoun declined, saying that while he is willing to build a program, good movement for Northwestern would be from 10th to 7th, which would not be good movement for Jim Calhoun. Calhoun took the job at UConn, coming off four seasons near the bottom of the (original) Big East. UConn went 9-19/3-13 (compared with Northwestern's 7-21/2-16) his first year. They won the NIT his second year (when the tournament, while no longer prestigious, did not have major-conference schools routinely decline invitations). And they lost on a buzzer-beater in the Elite Eight his fourth year. Meanwhile, Northwestern won 32 games (8 conference) in my four years, although I loved working for Bill Foster and his staff.

Calhoun also had NCAA problems, graduation-rate problems, and a big personality, so query how well he would have played at NU or whether he could have done there what he did at UConn. Still, my bit of personal history in anticipation of tomorrow's game.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 23, 2024 at 01:54 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


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