By Jeff Goodman
Bill Carmody scoffed at the notion.
"Please. C'mon," Northwestern's head coach said on Monday's Big Ten conference call when posed the question whether Tuesday's home contest against Michigan is the most important game in the program's history.
But it would wind up being just that if the Wildcats are to pull off the victory and use the win to catapult the team into the NCAA tournament for the first time.
A win would put the Wildcats at 17-10 overall and 7-8 in Big Ten play with three games remaining.
"It's an important game," Carmody admitted. "You have four left and if you win a few, you're in the discussion. But if we lose this one, you're not out of it."
Maybe not, but it would be difficult at three games under the .500 mark in league play. Two winnable road contests remain -- at Penn State this weekend and then on March 3 at Iowa. A home date against Ohio State is sandwiched in-between.
You'd likely be looking at running the table in those three -- which just isn't all that realistic.
Let's face it: This may be Carmody's last shot at getting to the Big Dance since the school's all-time leading scorer, John Shurna, will graduate after this season. Carmody has gotten this program close each of the last three seasons, but the Wildcats have been forced to settle for an NIT berth each year.
The bubble if dreadful this season -- and a .500 mark in the Big Ten, along with wins against Michigan State and tomorrow night against Michigan, could be enough.