Northwestern Basketball

Why You Should Root for Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament

The main question here isn’t why should you root for Northwestern, but why not? Chris Collins finally did it. Come Thursday March 16 the Wildcats will make their NCAA tournament debut against Vanderbilt in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Northwestern

The Wildcats celebrate their first NCAA tournament bid (Photo/ USA Today)

Northwestern was the only team in a power five conference to never appear in the tournament before this past Sunday.

They had just seven winning seasons since the 2000-01 season. Their best finish in the Big Ten was tied for fifth in the 2003-2004 season. They also did not have a winning conference record since the 1967-68 season until this year.

The program is quickly turning around from the looks of things. The Wildcats finished 10-8 in Big Ten regular season play with a win over Michigan in the final seconds. They won two games in the Big Ten tournament against Rutgers and Maryland until they eventually fell to Wisconsin in semifinals.

Now Northwestern looks to make their mark on the NCAA tournament after drawing an eight seed.

Only three first-time tourney participants have made it to the sweet sixteen before being eliminated since 1985: Florida in 1987 (six seed), Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 (15 seed) and Cleveland State in 1986 (14 seed).

It’s been a while since a first-time tourney goer has been such a high seed. The last school to make the tournament for the first time and be better than a ten seed was UC Irvine in 1998 as a nine seed. The highest seed for a first timer since 1985 was the Florida team in 1987.

Northwestern is looking forward with a real chance to compete in the tournament despite being the last power five conference team to make the tournament.

The Wildcats face a ninth-seeded Vanderbilt team in the first round of the tournament. The Commodores snuck into the last-minute at-large bids with a win over Florida in the SEC conference tournament. Vanderbilt has 15 losses on the year, including their loss in the SEC tournament to Arkansas. Some may say the nine seed is generous.

Only 11 teams in the past 60 years with 14 losses have received an at large bid before this year. Vanderbilt tops that with its 15 losses.

The Wildcats not only have a real chance of beating Vanderbilt in the round of 64, but they also have a chance to win their second game in the round of 32 where they would most likely face Gonzaga. Many believe Gonzaga is the weakest of the four one seeds.

Northwestern

Northwestern students also celebrated Sunday with the Wildcats first bid to the NCAA tournament (Photo/Patrick Gorski- USA Today)

What is also interesting is that it would be hard to find a reason to root against them.

Most of the time when people root against a team, it might be for multiple reasons with the most popular probably being its a rival team. The team also may always be good, or maybe you just don’t like them. None of those apply to Northwestern.

You can’t say they have a true rival since they have never been good. There may be just a couple Big Ten teams. As stated before, they haven’t ever been good, so you can’t dislike them for that. The only other reason we can think of that a person may not like them is because they didn’t get accepted into the school. However, it is a pretty hard school to get into.

If you’re looking for a feel-good story, this would be the one. It is also a story that could very well last until the second weekend of the tournament. Perhaps you just want a random team to root for. Northwestern deserves your attention either way, because why not.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Biggest Upsets in the First Round of the Last Five NCAA Tournaments

The first round of the NCAA Tournament is now rightfully restored to the games on Thursday and Friday of the first weekend after a short stint (2011-2015) as being reserved for the First Four games on Tuesday and Wednesday. In this time, the Thursday and Friday games have produced some great upsets. Here are some of the best upsets in what should have been the first round during this period:

Florida Gulf Coast surprised everyone with their athleticism in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Photo courtesy westwoodonesports.com.

  1.  2013- #15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles beat #2 Georgetown Hoyas

A 15 seed beating a number two seed is really rare, but Florida Gulf Coast pulled of this feat in 2013. The Eagles won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament to become eligible for the NCAA Tournament.  Georgetown had Big East Player of the Year, Otto Porter, who eventually was drafted number three overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. Florida Gulf Coast won the game by ten points and gained fame for having the nickname “Dunk City” after throwing down a lot of highlight-reel jams. Point guard Brett Comer had a double double for the Eagles with 12 points and 10 assists, while Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson had over 20 points each. Their offense was fun to watch, but the reason they won the game was that they held Otto Porter to only 13 points. Florida Gulf Coast would go on to be the first 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 before losing to Florida.

C.J. McCollum helped lead the Mountain Hawks to a huge upset over Duke. Photo courtesy centives.net.

2. 2012- #15 Lehigh Mountain Hawks defeat #2 Duke Blue Devils

Lehigh won the Patriot League tournament to clinch their tournament bid. The Mountain Hawks were led by a future NBA star, C.J. McCollum, but he was playing with a foot injury. Duke sported a team that featured Mason and Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Quinn Cook, who all went on to play professionally. The chances of the Mountain Hawks winning without their star was minimal. McCollum scored 30 points, had six rebounds and six assists. Forward Gabe Knutson added 17 points and shot 100 percent from the floor. Lehigh would lose in the second round to Xavier, but will forever be known for knocking of a National Championship contender.

The Spartans were led by a future NBA player, Kyle O’Quinn. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

3. 2012- #15 Norfolk State Spartan over #2 Missouri Tigers

Missouri had one of the best regular seasons in their history and received a two seed. They were loaded with stars such as Phil and Matt Pressey, Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Michael Dixon. Norfolk State came in to this game with a future NBA player in Kyle O’Quinn, but they did not have a very good bench. O’Quinn scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Spartans to a victory. The most impressive part of this upset is that Norfolk State had no bench points and still managed to get enough scoring to upset the Tigers.

The best thing about Mercer’s upset was the celebration afterwards. Photo courtesy ballislife.com.

4. 2014- #14 Mercer Bears upset #3 Duke Blue Devils

This is Duke’s second time on this list as they had a few rough years in the NCAA tournament between their NCAA Tournament Championships in 2010 and 2015.  Duke was loaded with talent in Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Rasheed Sulaimon and Andre Dawkins. Mercer is unique in that they didn’t have a future NBA player on their roster. Jakob Gallon led the Bears with 20 points and Daniel Coursey added 17 to help score the upset. The Bears moved on to the second round where they lost to Tennessee.

5. 2015- #14 Georgia State Panthers beats #3 Baylor Bears

Georgia State won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Head Coach Ron Hunter had a talented squad that included his son R.J. who was drafted in the 2015 NBA Draft. They were facing off with Baylor who had a balanced roster of good players. The Panthers were without starting point guard Ryan Harrow for this game, who was out with a leg injury. R.J. Hunter stepped up big time with 16 points and even hit the game-winning shot, which caused his father to fall off of his stool in excitement.

With all of the great games lately, the NCAA Tournament is getting better and better. Everybody get your popcorn ready, because this year there will be more upsets.