- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thus far, the only real personnel loss the Wildcats have suffered after the firing of Northwestern coach Bill Carmody is point guard Jaren Sina, a well-regarded top-100 recruit who would have been NU's highest-ranked incoming prospect since ESPN began tracking recruiting rankings in 2007. After the Carmody decision, Sina re-evaluated, choosing last week to head to Seton Hall instead.
So it wasn't entirely unfair to argue whether Northwestern might lose another transfer or two in the process. Players are dedicated to coaches; most players choose the coach over the program almost regardless of circumstance. One potential candidate for said transfer was senior forward Drew Crawford, who has banged his head against the NCAA tournament drought wall for four years before losing most of his 2013 season to injury. Crawford could have switched schools and played right away under the graduate student exemption. His coach was gone, and here was a chance to chase more than a tournament bid somewhere else. Instead, as Northwestern announced late Friday, Crawford is giving it one last go. There wasn't much in the way of buzz about a potential Crawford transfer, but perhaps Northwestern's announcement is at least an acknowledgment that the possibility existed.
In any case, Crawford's return really does round out a somewhat intriguing Northwestern lineup. Crawford could be one of the best guards in the Big Ten; he's certainly one of the most experienced. Guard JerShon Cobb will return from a season-long academic suspension. Center Alex Olah was one of the more promising bigs in the conference last season, a 7-footer who moves well and protects the rim and really just needs to add strength and polish, which is what your first summer on campus is for. And there are role players (Dave Sobolewski) and younger projects (Tre Demps, Kale Abrahamson, Mike Turner) who should help new coach Chris Collins round things out.
It's tough to call any Northwestern configuration a tournament team, and even if the talent was there the Wildcats have burned us far too often in recent seasons to get excited. So let's not go anywhere near that idea. But Northwestern will no doubt be better with Cobb, and now Crawford for certain, on the floor next season.