Welcome to the NCAA tournament, Northwestern. It’s been a long time coming.The Wildcats earned the No. 8 seed in the West region Selection Sunday and will square off against Vanderbilt in the first NCAA tournament game in school history. Here’s what you need to know about Chicago’s Big Ten team.
-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.