Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins is the guy that did the thing, leading the Wildcats to their one and only NCAA Tournament berth in 2017. However, this has been his only postseason appearance, and he’s been on the job a full decade now.
The program only has four 20+ win seasons to its name, and Collins can claim half of those? Can he add to that tally this term? if so, how does he get there?
NCAA Tournament Resume
14-5, 5-3 in the league, 3-3 in Quad 1, 2-2 in Quad 2. NET 46, SoS 63, KenPom 42
Quad 1 wins: Indiana NET 20, Michigan State NET 40, Illinois NET 27
Quad 2 wins: Liberty 53, Wisconsin 65
Bad Losses: Pitt is a decent team, but getting blown out by them at home still looks ugly. Ohio State is bad, there is no two ways about it. They’re not good. Yet the Buckeyes are ranked #24 in NET. So that really says all that you need to know about the NET rankings.
Right now, this is an #11 seed, First Four kind of resume.
Northwestern does not have any quad 3 or quad 4 losses. So they have that going for them, which is nice.
Big Ten Middling Mediocre Mess
Every single person who has an internet connection and an interest in Big Ten basketball posts a conference power rankings, but I’ll save you the time to go through all of those.
Purdue is #1, Minnesota is #14, Nebraska is maybe #13, and Ohio State is potentially #12. #2-#11 is a total crapshoot. Flip coins. No one knows.
Illinois can look like #1 on some nights, #14 on others, so they are in the midst of that pedestrian, inspiring, but still not horrible blob with everyone else, but they just take a very unique road to get there.
Rutgers is probably up near #2 somewhere and Northwestern basketball can realistically aim to be up in that area. The same can be said for Michigan State.
NU currently sits #3, and if they can hold on to double bye status in the Big Ten Tournament, they would be golden. The league isn’t good, but it isn’t terrible either. Only one team is currently nationally ranked and that says it all. It’s just a bunch of decent-to-okay-to-solid but not awful teams.
Northwestern basketball must carpe diem, and it all starts Saturday with what is the easiest the game remaining, at least on paper, when Minnesota comes to town.
Blackjack, 21, the Winning Hand
Just like in blackjack, if you hit 21, you win. If Northwestern basketball goes 7-5 down the stretch, very doable, they finish 21-10 overall, 11-9 in the league. That should be enough, given a.) the tournament is set up to always give power conference schools the benefit of the doubt over smaller universities and b.) it’s going to be a soft bubble again.
Get to 22 wins in total, including the Big Ten tournament, and that should punch the ticket.
Only one Cats team has ever won 21, the tournament team from ’17 that won 24. (There is of course the 1930-31 team that went 16-1 and claims a national championship).
Looking at the schedule, only one game, Feb 12 against #1 Purdue looks like an almost guaranteed loss. That game against Minnesota on Saturday is the only almost guaranteed win.
Northwestern will do all this under conditions of extreme fixture congestion (yes, we’re using the Premier League term), due to the covid pause.
Maybe the NBA style schedule (six games in 13 days), down the stretch here, will work in the favor of this Northwestern basketball team.
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.
Leave a Reply