Date: Tuesday, January 2nd
Time: 8:00 pm CST
Location: Rosemont, IL
Coach: Chris Collins (5th Season)
2016-17 Record: 24-12 (10-8 Big Ten)
2017-18 Record: 10-5 (1-1 Big Ten)
Northwestern had a breakout season in 2016-17. They not only made their first ever NCAA Tournament in school history but also won their first game. Leaving Nebraska as the lone power conference school without an NCAA Tournament win. It’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow but we are the last win less team in the record books.
The Wildcats went 11-2 in the non conference with losses to Notre Dame and Butler. Most of their wins during this time were to lesser opponents though they did have a nice win over a then #22 Texas. However, the Longhorns ended the year 11-22 so that win diminished as the year went on.
Northwestern competed fairly well once conference started going 10-8 on the year. While the conference record doesn’t show it, they were fairly competitive in many of their losses and pulled out a handful of squeakers. Also of note, this was their first winning conference record in 49 years.
They received the #6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament where they made it all the way to the semifinals. During their run they beat #14 seed Rutgers and #3 seed and nationally ranked Maryland before exiting after a loss to #2 and nationally ranked Wisconsin.
Their efforts were rewarded with and #8 seed in the west in the NCAA Tournament. They won their first game against the #9 seeded Vanderbilt before losing to the #1 seed Gonzaga. This was a heck of a run for a team that had never been to an NCAA Tournament before this season.
Point guard Bryant McIntosh was an All Big Ten Second Team honoree by both the coaches and media. Forward Vic Law was named to the All Big Ten Defensive Team and guard Scottie Lindsay was named to the third team by the coaches and honorable mention by the media.
There was a lot of anticipation coming in to this season for Northwestern. With the previous season going so well and almost the entire team returning they were expected to do even better. They were even ranked #19 coming into the season.
Unfortunately, this year has been a little bit of a struggle for the Wildcat and have started out 5-4. They started well enough winning against Loyola and St. Peters before a close game against Creighton gave them their first loss. From there is was a win against La Salle, a loss to Texas Tech, a win against Sacred Heart, a loss against Georgia Tech, a conference win against Illinois, and a loss against Purdue. A frustrating way to start the year to say the least.
It wasn’t until the second week of December when they finally found some sort of a rhythm and rattled off four straight wins before they were soundly defeated by #17 Oklahoma in Norman.
The Wildcats are lead by a majority of the team from last year. Scottie Lindsay is leading the team in points with 14.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and 1.9 apg. A big threat that hurt Nebraska last year. Though, he was almost completely shut down in the loss to Oklahoma. Only scoring 2 points on the night. I expect him to sit even higher that honorable mention Big Ten at the end of the year.
Bryant McIntosh is averaging 13.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, and 5.5 apg at his position at point and is just as much of a versatile threat as he was last year. Should be an interesting match up against Nebraska’s James Palmer. His stats are almost identical to last seasons but that’s not necessarily bad for one of the top players in the conference. He was injured during their win against Brown but should not be out long and might still play against Nebraska.
Guard Vic Law has improved from last year. At least enough to notice though the scoreboard doesn’t always show it. He is averaging 13.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 1.8 apg. All up a tick or so from the previous season. He had a concussion and missed a couple of games but it hasn’t seemed to slow him down.
When it comes down to it, all three can and will most likely be problems once again for Nebraska.
Minor injuries, tougher schedule, and what is probably a hangover from last season has kept Northwestern from going on the non conference run they did last year. Though, it would surprise me if they don’t end up in the upper half of the conference again this season.
As for the game against Nebraska. I believe it will be close and Nebraska should be able to go toe to toe. However, if Nebraska comes out flat like they have been known to do, it could be an long night for the Big Red.
Honestly, until the Huskers prove they can play a complete game on a regular basis, I will keep giving the benefit of the doubt to the team with the better track record.
Northwestern University 78 University of Nebraska 75