Northwestern's showdown against Iowa at the United Center was the final game on Thursday's Big Ten tournament program.
The question following the Wildcats' 73-59 loss to the Hawkeyes is: was it also the final game of head coach Bill Carmody's 13-year run of the Northwestern basketball program?
That topic certainly was the elephant in the room after the game, and Carmody seemed to be expecting as much after week's of speculation on his job status. Despite the opportunity, Carmody opted not to publicly lobby for his job minutes after the game.
"I don't think this is the time for that," Carmody said when asked about the possibility of his return next season. "(Athletic director) Jim Phillips and I will discuss this in the next few days and then we'll go from there."
No doubt part of that discussion will include the fact that it's been yet another season without an NCAA bid for the Wilkcats.
"Everyone's goal is to get into the NCAA Tournament, and we haven't been able to accomplish that. In 100 years we haven't been able to accomplish that," Carmody said. "But I feel like we've done a pretty good job in bringing in some pretty good players, so we've been pretty good in that regard."
And when his 13th season at the helm began, with a talented roster in tow, it looked like this might just be the year to break that spell. But then injuries and other unexpected glitches hit and before you knew it, the Wildcats were limping their way to a 13-19 finish.
"It's really difficult, but that's basketball," senior guard Alex Marcotullio said. "But you just have to deal with the injuries.
"(Carmody) has done a terrific job with the cards he's been dealt. The coaches put us in the right spots but we just haven't executed as we should have."
That was certainly the case Thursday. The Wildcats could not have gotten off to a worse start -- going a full 7½ minutes without a point. By the time Nikola Cerina broke the drought with a layup, the Cats had already dug themselves an 11-2 hole.
But they clawed back. After trailing by as many as 18 in the first half, the Cats cut it to 7 in the second half before Iowa finally provided the dagger in the final minutes.
Reggie Hearn led the Wildcats with 19 points, matching Iowa's Denyn Marble in that category.
"You knew they were going to come back," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "A Bill Carmody-coached team is going to keep coming and coming."
Whether that applies to Carmody and the 2013-14 season as well is still to be determined.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.