On Jan. 6, Florida State shocked the world with a 77-76 upset of No. 1 Duke. Earlier this year the Seminoles fell to Bill Carmody”s Northwestern Wildcats in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
That prompted Ed Carmody, the coach”s eight-year-old son to ask, “Does that make you No. 1?”
Nope, that would make Fordham the nation”s top team. After all, the Jesuit school knocked off the Wildcats earlier this year 63-60 on a neutral court in Bronx, N.Y.
Northwestern (0-3 Big Ten, 8-6 overall) pumped up its record in the nonconference season with home wins against Liberty, Virginia Commonwealth, Chicago State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
But the Wildcats have not been nearly as successful on the road, where they have yet to lose by fewer than 10 points.
Michigan (2-2, 6-7) hopes that hosting Northwestern may be the answer to its two-game losing streak.
The Wolverines” tough and aggressive team defense was supposed to be a staple of new coach Tommy Amaker”s program. But in the last two games, Michigan”s opponents have been shooting like they were in an empty gym. Illinois shot 68 percent on Saturday and Minnesota converted at a 69 percent clip a week ago in Minneapolis.
“Both of those teams played very well against us offensively,” Amaker said. “They have a lot of weapons, a lot of guys who can score. We”ve done better against teams that might not have as many weapons.”
Northwestern, which ranks last in the Big Ten with just 62 points per game, may be one of those teams.
“Shooting is so important, and right now we are not a good shooting team,” Carmody said after his team”s 55-48 home loss to Ohio State.
The Wildcats fell behind 8-0 in that game, turning the ball over on five of their first six possessions.
Northwestern also ranks last in the Big Ten in free-throw shooting (.604) and rebounding margin (-3.4 per game).
Michigan”s top two offensive players (LaVell Blanchard and Bernard Robinson) each shoot more than 83 percent from the charity stripe.
That could be a key for the Wolverines if the game remains close down the stretch.
But Michigan cannot enter this game with too much confidence, because last year over spring break the Wildcats triumphed 75-70 in Crisler Arena.
“The teams are pretty similar we both have a lot of the same guys coming back,” Carmody said. “Our players know about it. Their players know about it. I don”t make a big deal about it either way.”
The Michigan players didn”t appear to be considering the teams” history either.
“Did we lose to them?” senior tri-captain Rotolu Adebiyi asked yesterday.
Carmody left Princeton a year and a half ago to begin the rebuilding process with the Wildcats, who have been without a senior scholarship player for the last two seasons. During that time they amassed a 16-44 record.
But Jitim Young may be part of the answer for this hapless program. The sophomore guard is the first Chicago high schooler to accept a scholarship to Northwestern since 1990. He currently is among the Big Ten leaders in points (15) and steals (2.3).
Another sharpshooter that the Wolverines will have to watch is Vedran Vukusic, who hails from the same hometown in Croatia as Toni Kukoc of the Atlanta Hawks.
Vukusic opened the season 11-for-11 from beyond the arc. As a team, the Wildcats lead the Big Ten with more than eight 3-pointers per contest.
This will be one of just two Big Ten games all season that will not be broadcast on television.