Northwestern still needs three wins to make NCAA Tournament

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In our latest NCAA Tournament bracket projection, we have Northwestern as a #12 seed, one of the last four teams in. Of course, this isn’t a place you want to stay right now as Selection Sunday approaches.

Even though this is a supposedly “weak bubble,” bracket projections don’t and can’t factor in the “bid-stealing” that will occur next week when small conference favorites lose in their in their league tournaments. How many of these “one-bid league” upsets will we have? Who knows, but you need to get above that last #12 seed line to be safe, and the ‘Cats need to beat the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City and then pick up two more wins in Indy.

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Northwestern’s Surprisingly Good RPI, Tournament Profile

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RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) is an algorithm based on opponents’ winning percentage, opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage, and opponents’ opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage. This is the truth, I’m not trying to sound like Dr. Seuss here. So RPI is like the BCS, a very controversial number that certains groups of people ascribe meaning to; other groups of people resent.

That fact is, RPI is taken very seriously by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, and from a numerical standpoint, it’s all about “who have you played?” Then there’s the eye-test with RPI, which asks “who have you beaten?”

And these numbers are what gives the Northwestern Wildcats a stronger than you think tourney profile. A 12-5, 2-3 in conference team with two 28+ point losses doesn’t seem like a good candidate to go dancing at first glance. But when you look at their #30 RPI and strength of schedule, the picture completely changes.

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#6 Michigan State Sees Win Streak End at Northwestern!

Tom Izzo

Was this a huge upset? On one level, yes. Any time the most prominent college basketball program in the Big Ten falls to the program with the least amount of tradition in the conference, it’s huge!

Not to mention it ended the biggest win streak that prominent

On the other hand, Northwestern came in with a RPI of 28 while Michigan State’s number is 6, so it’s not that big of a spread.

Also, last year’s meetings were an OT defeat in East Lansing and a one possession final score in Evanston.

However, when Northwestern defeated Michigan State 81-74, this one seemed to look like a “season definer.”

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Northwestern Closes Out Illini, Illinois Road Woes Continue

In the second battle between Chicago’s two Big Ten college basketball teams, the outcome was drastically different from the first. Just how much of a disparity?

It would be like comparing the body composition of Illini Center Mike Tisdale (7-1, very svelte) to that of Jersey Shore star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (4-8, very squished).

In their first meeting in Champaign, Illinois crushed the Northwestern Wildcats 88-63, in a game that was even more lopsided than that final score reads.

But here at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the ‘Cats knocked off the Illini 71-70. Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody was asked if the home/road difference is truly worth 26 points?

“It was to them,” he answered.

By Paul M. Banks

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Keeping Up with the Crawfords Part 2 Drew

By Paul M. Banks

For part one of this installment, with Drew’s father, NBA referee Dan Crawford go here.

On Thursday night, Northwestern earned their 18th victory of the season, thereby establishing a new school record. In that game small forward Drew Crawford scored just two points on 1-4 shooting. but don’t let that number fool you. Like Cleveland Indians Manager Lou Brown said to Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn in “Major League”, “you’re one of the guys that got us here.

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Northwestern Gives #8 Iowa First Loss 17-10

Northwestern

By Paul M. Banks

All year long, Iowa wasn’t just wining ugly, they were winning HIDEOUSLY. To their immense credit, the un-sexiest 9-0 team in college football history kept winning, despite a starting quarterback, Ricky Stanzi who is to throwing interceptions what cable news is to covering celebrity deaths. The Iowa Hawkeyes got off to the best start in school history with mediocre-to-bad statistical rankings in every major category and zero skill position players that anyone other than the geekiest of college football geeks has ever heard of. Yet, their solid running game, seasoned linebacking corps, and loads of NFL ready talent on both lines kept them perfect and grabbed them the cover of Sports Illustrated. Dreaded SI cover jinx anyone?

They were finally done in by their deficiencies, some bad luck, and the bite from the injury bug swelling to crippling infection. They entered the game down to their third string tailback. Stanzi, their starting QB, went down with an ankle sprain in the first quarter and the Hawkeyes were forced to play backup James Vanderbeek. Whoops, I meant to say James Vandenberg. The freshman from Keokuk, not the actor best known as Dawson from “Dawson’s Creek,” who played a QB in two different films (“Angus” and “Varsity Blues”)

But Vandenberg was about as effective in running the Iowa offense as “Dawson’s Creek” writers were to having characters with realistic dialogue. The Northwestern secondary truly shut him down.

Coincidence that the team finally doing them in, the bowl-eligible 6-4 Northwestern Wildcats, have likewise experienced a season filled with injuries and insanely erratic play. Northwestern gave Iowa, the #8 team in the AP, #4 in the BCS, their first loss despite missing their MVP Mike Kafka for much of it.kafkadualthreat

The senior QB leads the team in rushing and leads the Big Ten in both passing and completions. He started, but a hamstring injury limited his passing effectiveness, and completely “hamstrung” his ability to run out of the pocket.

Therefore, the Wildcats were forced to go with backup QB Dan Persa much of the day, a former state of Pennsylvania high school player of the year, who like Kafka has a great ability to run, but has yet to have a Kafka like metamorphosis in the air attack.

Northwestern has had a perplexing season, losing to lowly Syracuse, but also holding a 4th quarter lead in every game but one this season, even when they were playing much more talented competition. They truly embody that cliché of “playing up (or down) to their competition.” Two of their non-conference wins were alarmingly close over two of the absolute worst squads of the 120 team FBS. (Miami of Ohio, Eastern Michigan). But this win, ugly as it was for both sides, was as sweet as it gets for Northwestern.

It’s the “signature win” that Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald was looking for. One of the youngest coaches in the FBS, he’s guided his Wildcats to three bowl-eligibility seasons during his four year tenure, but this is his first win over a top ten team. He’s known as one of the most emotionally intense coaches in all of college football, so he is no doubt grinning ear-to-ear today

And he truly has Iowa’s number: Northwestern has won 4 of their last 5 against the Hawkeyes, and three straight overall in Kinnick Stadium, where almost nobody wins.

And for the Hawkeyes, the nation’s second longest winning streak ends. Their most recent loss prior to today came at the hands of the Illinois Fighting Illini in November of 2008. With the loss to a team that calls Evanston, IL home this afternoon, I’m guessing Hawkeye Nation has a very bitter view of the Prairie State right now!