Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Let's turn our attention for a moment from the sad trombone that is the Wildcats men's basketball team and show some love for our women's team, which actually has a realistic shot at making the NCAA tournament. And the next five games are on BTN!
The Wildcats' NCAA tournament resume to date:
- Record of 14-9 overall, 4-6 in the Big Ten, tied for 7th.
- RPI: 77, according to realtimerpi.com. Sagarin ranks them a bit higher, at 64.
- Three wins over ranked teams: #25 DePaul (RPI 37), #20 Purdue (RPI 9), and #18 Nebraska (RPI 48), all at home.
- Best road win: at Indiana (RPI 39)
- Bad losses to Indiana State (RPI 131) and Illinois (RPI 143)
It's not a terrible looking resume, though the Wildcats do have some work to do. Fortunately, the remaining schedule will be very RPI friendly, if Northwestern can string together some wins:
• tonight at Iowa (RPI 29)
• Feb. 15 vs. Minnesota (RPI 33)
• Feb. 20 at #9 Penn State (RPI 9)
• Feb. 23 at Ohio State (RPI 41)
• Feb. 27 vs. #24 Michigan State (RPI 43)
• March 2 at Wisconsin (RPI 93)
None, except perhaps Wisconsin, are gimmies, but that's the type of tournament resume-building schedule you want. The Penn State game will obviously be really tough, but the Wildcats did hang tough against them in their first game earlier this season in Evanston, losing 79-75. In fact, four out of the Wildcats' six conference losses have come by four points or less, which may come to haunt them when Selection Sunday comes.
By my guesstimation calculation, if Northwestern can go 4-2 in their remaining regular season games, that puts them onto the bubble at 18-11 overall, 8-8 Big Ten. Win a first round Big Ten tournament game, and that should put them on the right side of the bubble and hopefully into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998.
At any rate, the next five games will be televised on BTN, so we'll be able to watch the Wildcats' march to the tournament. If you haven't watched the women's team before, be prepared for some frenetic pace, as head coach Joe McKeown likes to push the ball. Sometimes, this leads to bad turnovers and rushed shots, but when it's clicking, it's a lot of fun to watch. This is a young team (for most of the season, McKeown has started three freshmen, one sophomore and one junior), and the fact that they're contending for an NCAA berth this year bodes well.