Believe it or not, the Northwestern Wildcats are the hottest team in the Big 10. The ‘Cats have won four out of their past five games, including three road victories over the likes of Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota. And which team currently sits in 4th place of what has been widely considered the best conference in all of college basketball? Yep, just like everybody expected, Northwestern.
This fantastic stretch has brought the Wildcats’ overall record to 12-11 and 5-5 in the Big 10. When you really take a close look at the remainder of their schedule, there’s a lot of winnable games to be had. Now, I’m not suggesting that Northwestern has a a chance to qualify for the school’s first ever NCAA Tournament bid, am I? Well, maybe not, but it’s certainly plausible to believe they have an outside shot to do so.
Northwestern’s resurgence started back in the offseason with the hiring of Chris Collins. Collins has done nothing short of an incredible job in Evanston, and he’s gotten the ‘Cats to play tough, hard-nosed basketball. “Tough” and “hard-nosed,” two attributes that have never in the past been associated with Northwestern basketball. In their three-game road winning streak that spans over the last two weeks, the Wildcats have limited their opposition to an average of 52.3 points per contest. That’s a great recipe for success.
The players deserve a lot of credit for this remarkable turnaround as well. Much of the roster from last season’s 13-19 team returned. Drew Crawford, who in my opinion should be mentioned as a candidate for Big 10 player of the year, along with Tre Demps and JerShon Cobb have formed an exceptional backcourt. Additionally, center Alex Olah is really improving in the low post and emerging as a reliable scoring option.
The Big 10 Conference can no longer overlook “Chicago’s Big 10 Team.” Northwestern basketball is on the rise, and although a slim chance, it’s pretty amazing that this team is still even in the conversation to potentially reach the NCAA Tournament.
Matthew Sturgeon is a College Basketball columnist for RantSports.com. He covers the Big 10 Conference. You can follow him on Twitter @OfficialSturg27