Team preview: Northwestern

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

As Northwestern searches for that elusive NCAA Tournament bid it has never received, Bill Carmody believes he has found the right answer.

The Wildcats are back trying to establish themselves as a player in recruiting greater Chicago. Keep the backyard talent at home, Carmody believes, and the program will elevate along with it.

Carmody hired former Wildcat Tavaras Hardy for just that reason. Hardy is a Chi-town native who played in a record 118 games while at Northwestern. He succeeded Craig Robinson, who was hired as the head coach at Brown. Hardy, who graduated in 2002, marked the first change on Carmody's coaching staff in the six years he's been in Evanston.

The Wildcats have already built off the momentum from two Chicago signees in the class of 2006. They received two commitments from Chicago area players in the class of 2007—Lincoln Park guard Michael Thompson, who averaged 22 points and six assists as a junior; and Glenbard East forward Mike Capocci, who averaged 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. Capocci, ranked among the top 10 seniors in Illinois, is viewed as Carmody's most prominent Chicagoland recruit.

That doesn't mean Carmody will lose his European pipeline. He has been able to get good players from overseas, including Vedran Vukusic, who led the team in scoring the last two seasons.

"Sometimes when you're playing with a guy you defer to him in certain ways," Carmody said. "Without him there, maybe they'll shine through a little bit."
Vukusic, who led the Big Ten in scoring (19.0 ppg) and Montreal native Mohamed Hachad leave scoring voids as the only two Wildcats that averaged double figures last season.

Carmody's Princeton-styled offense perennially keeps the Wildcats among the lower scoring teams in the conference. But even methodical, back-door screening teams have to find players who can create their own shots.

"Certainly the scoring is a little scary to me at this point," Carmody said. "You go through all your stuff, but at the end of the day somebody's got to put it in. No matter what kind of offense you're doing, if somebody's open it's got to go in."