Northwestern, No Mercy
It was one of the cinderella stories here in early March. A team which had never made it to the NCAA tournament had built a strong résumé and was prepared to dance this spring. They had a signature win versus Michigan State, a top 50 RPI, and a top 15 strength of schedule. Really there was only one bad loss versus Minnesota. If you still are unaware, I am speaking of the Big 10’s resident nerds at Northwestern. The whitest team in the conference was seeking it’s debut in March Madness and finally appeared to have the résumé to accomplish the feat. Really the only thing standing in Northwestern’s way to being a strong bubble team was making it through the first round of the Big Ten tournament without losing to lowly Minnesota for a second time this season. To quote the great and obviously intelligent governor of Texas Rick Perry, “Oops”. It certainly was not due to a lack of hustle. Just peering across the Northwestern bench allows a spectator to see the Wildcats are loaded with hustle players. In the end, Northwestern proved this year that it simply is not a team worthy of playing in the Big Dance. The Wildcats gave us this apparition of a tournament team for so long. Northwestern was like a phantom floating not just under the radar, but literally no one was aware the school still had basketball as a sport until late February game and ESPN’s resident bracketologist (seriously?) Joe Lunardi had the Wildcats as one of his last four teams in the tournament. If I did not know better (and I don’t) I can only assume Lunardi was plotting with the Wildcats to try and get us hyped for this magical moment when the nerds would earn a berth into the tournament. Even with the loss to Minnesota (something which should have buried the Wildcats behind the likes of Oregon, Arizona, even Tennessee perhaps) Lunardi keeps them as his “last team out”. In all seriousness, NW caught Michigan State on an off night for its only impressive win. They went 8-10 in the regular season in conference and aside from Michigan State, the next best win was versus 17-15 Iowa. I don’t enjoy being “that guy”, but even though everyone and his uncle wants to see Northwestern earn a place in the tournament, the Wildcats simply have proven through the loss that they’ll be dancing only to Madison Square Garden for the NIT (assuming they make it that far in that tourney). So congratulations to Northwestern for almost being good enough to earn a bid to the tournament. Good job on nearly having enough credentials. Bravo for taking Minnesota to overtime on March 8th before losing…the sad thing is, Minnesota is a bad loss for Northwestern and the Gophers had nearly an identical record to Northwestern in the regular season (18-13) but a time in the Big Ten (6-12) left the Gophers off an radars for the NCAA tournament. On the bright side, this should be counted as a quality win over a bubble tournament team and another win would put the Gophers at a technical 8-12 in conference, only a loss worse than Northwestern. It would be a signature win over #13 Michigan (they have also beaten Indiana) and give the Minnesota Golden Gophers a 20-13 record this season (two wins better than Northwestern). Via the Northwestern formula, I am beginning my campaign for Minnesota to be on the bubble and currently Joe Lunardi’s second team out of the field…what say?