In the words of Outkast, “from here on out, it only gets rougher” for this Northwestern basketball team. While this Wildcats squad is solid, talented and deep, a big reason they entered February sitting second in the league is their scheduling.
The Cats were able to feast off the softer underbelly of the Big Ten conference, and they padded their record accordingly. Now comes the gauntlet, a murderer’s row of sorts, or at least what qualifies as such in the 2022-23 Big Ten.
At the end of the day, Purdue is #1, Minnesota is your #14, Ohio State is probably the #13 and Nebraska the #12. You can almost flip coins on #2 through #11, so anything can happen, but here is how we predict it will all play out during the run-in.
Northwestern Basketball Current Resume
17-7, 8-5 in the league, NET 52 SoS 162 Quad 1 Wins (6): Wisconsin x2, Illinois, Indiana, Liberty, Michigan State
Sun Feb 12, 1pm, BTN, vs #1 Purdue
Springing the upset here would pretty much clinch an at large NCAA Tournament berth (provided they totally don’t implode for the rest of the season after that).
We just don’t see it happening though.
Wed, Feb 15, 8pm, BTN, vs Indiana
They already took care of business in their gym, this season, so I think it is purple reign over IUBB this season. Cats sweep the series against 12th year forward Trayce-Jackson Davis, Miller Kopp and company.
Just like they did with Wisconsin.
Sun Feb 19, 5:30pm, BTN, vs Iowa
This series has been extremely lopsided, especially lately, and the reverse fixture did not work out well at all for NU.
Still, they need to eek one out, and turn the tide at some point.
W, 78-77 (OT)
Thur Feb 23, 8pm, BTN, @ Illinois
The Illini typically play very well, about six out of every seven or seven out of every eight games. It’s just that in that “other” game, they aren’t just off, they AWFUL!
They can look like #14 in the league one night, #1 the next.
You saw them lay an egg, earlier this term, in Evanston. That won’t happen again and they’ll be very motivated.
Sun Feb 26 11am, BTN, @ Maryland
The Terps peaked too early, and even then they were very overrated. This Northwestern basketball team has been consistently solid on the road.
They got this.
Wed Mar 1, 8PM, BTN, Penn State
Speaking of peaking too early, this a decent side, but once again, you can put the NIT in Nittany Lions.
Sun Mar 5, 6:30pm, BTN @ Rutgers
Honestly, this might be the second best team in the Big Ten, and the RAC is a very tough place to play. It’s easy to handicap this one.
As we said previously, this game is just like BlackJack- hit 21, and you have a winning hand. If our prjections hold, the Cats finish 21-10, 12-8 in the league, and that would clinch an at large tourney berth.
Even finishing 20-11, 11-9 might be enough, but you might need one more W, in the Big Ten Tourney, to be totally safe, and not sweating on Selection Sunday.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.
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