Welcome to the NCAA tournament, Northwestern. It’s been a long time coming.
-The Wildcats have been ranked in the AP Top 25 at some point during five seasons in program history, including this one. The years: 2016-17, 2009-10, 1968-69, 1958-59 and 1954-55.
-Northwestern highest AP Poll ranking? That would be sixth; it happened in 1958-59.
-Before 2015-16, Bill Carmody was the only coach to lead the Wildcats to a 20-win season. Northwestern reached the feat in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
-Northwestern hired Chris Collins in 2013. After a few rebuilding years, Collins has been remarkable as of late – the Wildcats are 43-23 (.652) in the past two seasons. Before 2015-16, the last time Northwestern won at least 60 percent of its games was 1958-59. Collins is two for his last two.
The son of three-time NBA All-Star Doug Collins, Chris played under Mike Krzyzewski and was an assistant coach at Duke for 13 years. The 42 year old is 72-58 as a head coach.
BRACKET: Meet the field of 68
This year’s team
Leading scorer: Junior point guard Bryant McIntosh averages 14.4 points for the Cats; he’s also their leading assist man. McIntosh’s scoring has improved each year in Evanston, but he’s shooting a career-low 39.8 percent from this floor this season.
Leading rebounder: Dererk Pardon, who will forever be remembered by this:
But he’s done an exceptional job manning the interior in general. Pardon averages eight rebounds and 1.9 blocks, both tops on Northwestern by a mile. Opponents score 96.3 points per 100 possessions with Pardon on the floor, which leads all Wildcat regulars.
Best athletes: The biggest difference between this Northwestern outfit and past teams: the Wildcats have length and explosion on the wings in the form of Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law. Each average more than 12 points and a steal per night; Lindsey and Law are solid defensive players that can switch defensive assignments on the fly.
Dec. 17: vs. Dayton (67-64)
Feb 12: at Wisconsin (66-59)
March 1: vs. Michigan (67-65)
March 10: vs. Maryland (72-64)
Northwestern has some high-profile fans and alums, and as you’d expect, they were pumped about the Wildcats' tourney berth:
The 78-year wait is over!— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 12, 2017
Northwestern is going dancing for the first time in school history pic.twitter.com/JQWO3Fca5G
Congratulations to the Wildcats. We’ll see if they can make some noise in the Big Dance.