Situated in third place in a mostly down year for the Big Ten Conference has the Wildcats in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the very first time
Chicago has seen many droughts come to an end since the start of the Blackberry era:
- The White Sox lost only one postseason game and led wire-to-wire in winning the 2005 World Series in four very close games against a future American League opponent nonetheless in the Houston Astros.
- The Blackhawks erased 49 years of frustration and near misses with the “Phantom Puck” shot by Patrick Kane in Philadelphia to win the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup in six games. The Hawks would go on to win again in 2013 over Boston and in 2015 over a gutsy group of Tampa Bay Lightning.
- And this past November saw the ultimate end to the longest drought in the history of American sports with the Cubs finally emerging victorious 8-7 in ten heart pounding innings against Cleveland in the most dramatic Game 7 of any World Series ever. Even Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts brought the Commissioner’s Trophy for all of the crowd to see. Yes, 108 years is a mighty long time and it nearly feels that long for the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston.
Which brings me to Sunday night…
The Wildcats dominated Indiana in one of the rare reversals of fortune. For several y years, it was the other way around as the Hoosiers used Northwestern as target practice and a mostly cupcake effort across the Central Time Zone.
The guys in purple won 68-55 and it was not even close for much of the contest. Indiana only shot 32 percent from the field (17 of 53), while Northwestern shot 23 of 56 for 41 percent in winning their sixth straight game.
Leading the way for Northwestern (18-4, 7-2 in the Big Ten) was Bryant McIntosh who scored 21 points to go along with 8 assists, Sanjay Lumpkin had 15 and Scottie Lindsey ended up with 12. Vic Law led the Wildcats with 12 rebounds.
CBSSports.com brought up this great pair of stats to consider:
This is the Wildcats’ longest win streak in Big Ten play since way back in 1932-33 when that team won seven games in a row during the height of the Great Depression. Their 7-2 conference start is their best since 1937-38.
They currently sit a half game behind both Maryland and Wisconsin. Maryland is 19-2 overall, while the Badgers are 18-3. The Cats’ RPI is a healthy 29 (up eight digits prior to Sunday’s game), while their next opponent Wednesday night on the road is the Purdue Boilermakers is a few notches lower at 26.
And yes, they managed to crack the Associated Press Top 25 poll–which has been a long time coming for the program.
Matt Norlander laid out some really interesting points in a cool article I hope you can check out when you get extra time:
After that, Northwestern will get some time off before they return home to Welsh-Ryan Arena on February 7 to take their intrastate rivals from Illinois. The next pair of games will then have a major impact on where they will be seeded in the Big Ten Tournament in New York City–Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on BTN at Wisconsin and three nights later on Wednesday, February 15 at 7 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2 against Maryland.
In years past, the Big Ten would get anywhere from five to seven teams into the Big Dance. This year, it looks like only four schools will have their tickets punched, unless Tom Izzo brings on that fire and passion that he has been famous for in Februarys past. But as you will find out in my next edition of Under The Microscope, you will see that replacing a National Player of the Year candidate in Denzel Valentine is no easy task.