Don't believe the standings.
"I told our guys: 'It's the beginning of the second half, and we are 1-0,'" Carmody said, taking a page from Bears coach Lovie Smith.
NU's conventional record is 14-8 and 4-6 in the Big Ten after the Wildcats stunned Illinois 74-70 Sunday with some remarkable offensive efficiency. They hit 13 of their final 15 field-goal tries, with John Shurna going 8-for-9 in the second half.
"He's being more aggressive," Carmody said. "In the past sometime he has been like a Raggedy Ann doll when he drives, with his arms flying all over the place. Now he seems more controlled. There was no question he was going to finish those drives."
Shurna scored a game-high 24 points Sunday, including 17 in the second half. Combined with his 28-point, five-rebound performance in NU's 84-74 win over Nebraska, Shurna was named co-Big Ten Player of the Week, along with Ohio State's Jared Sullinger. It's Shurna's fifth career honor and the first of his senior season.
He leads the Big Ten with 19.6 points per game but only wants to talk about where his team stands — in a much healthier spot than one week ago.
Even at 2-6 in the Big Ten, CollegeRPI.com's Jerry Palm projected Northwestern would rally sufficiently to make the NCAA's field of 68.
"People kept saying: 'How can you have a 2-6 team in?'" Palm asked. "Well, the conference record is not a factor, and conference standings are totally irrelevant. Teams are judged on their entire season, not the conference season."
Especially in leagues such as the Big Ten and Big East, which play unbalanced schedules.
On Monday, Palm said: "If not Northwestern, who? Would you rather take teams that haven't beaten anybody or teams that lose to bad teams? The thing you can say about Northwestern is, it takes a good team to beat 'em."
Northwestern's only loss to a team outside the RPI top 50 was a two-pointer to Purdue. The Wildcats have beaten three RPI top-50 teams (Michigan State, Illinois, Seton Hall), though the Pirates are on a sinking ship, having lost six straight.
So what does Northwestern, with an RPI around 40 depending on the formula, have to do in its final eight games? If the Wildcats go 4-4 to finish 8-10, would they have a decent case?
"It would depend on which 8 and which 10," Palm said. "I can't answer that with four weeks to go, let alone two.
"But I won't be surprised if an 8-10 team makes the tournament because just about every Big Ten team has done something out of conference. The league has the (nation's) No. 1 RPI by far. It's dominating like no league has in the last eight years."
Next up for Northwestern is a Thursday night date with Iowa at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Hawkeyes are 5-6 in Big Ten play after back-to-back wins over Minnesota and Penn State. The Wildcats visit Purdue on Sunday.
Carmody used just six players in the victories over Nebraska and Illinois, but he's hopeful Luka Mirkovic (ankle) and JerShon Cobb (hip) can return this week.