Northwestern kept its NCAA Tournament hope alive beating Iowa 70-66 in the last game of the regular season today. Northwestern has never been an NCAA Tournament participant. Last week, Drive and Dish examined the recent history of Northwestern basketball and the significance of the Wildcats' pursuit of their first NCAA Tournament bid.
Northwestern now has an 18-12 overall record, and an 8-10 record in Big Ten conference play. As we explained in last week's aforementioned Drive and Dish post, we weren't optimistic about the Cats' chances for getting their first NCAA Tournament invitation after they fell just short of upsetting No. 10 Ohio State on Wednesday. But with the end-of-season collapses of other Big Ten teams that were on the NCAA Tournament "bubble" (we're looking at you, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa), NU's chances quickly got a lot better.
Northwestern finished the regular season in seventh place in the Big Ten. Since the Big Ten has been widely regarded as the most competitive conference in college basketball this season, it's likely that seven Big Ten teams will get into the NCAA Tournament. If Northwestern beats Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament later this week, they will almost certainly be rewarded with their first Tournament invitation.
Drive and Dish believes that Northwestern could be dangerous in the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern has run the famed Princeton offense since Bill Carmody implemented it when left Princeton to become the Wildcats' head coach in 2000. The Princeton offense is notoriously difficult for opposing teams to prepare for, and teams that run it have had a great deal of success playing the role of "Cinderella" in the NCAA Tournament.
This year, Drive and Dish wouldn't be surprised to see Northwestern wearing glass slippers in the "Big Dance."
The news isn't as good for Michigan State though. Star freshman small forward Branden Dawson tore his ACL in today's 72-70 loss to Ohio State. Dawson will undergo reconstructive knee surgery and 6-9 months of rehabilitation.
Obviously, he won't be able to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Until today, Drive and Dish had expected Michigan State to be a serious contender for the 2012 National Championship. We thought they had an excellent chance to make it to the Final Four, and at least a decent shot at giving head coach Tom Izzo his second Championship. But Dawson's season-ending injury makes that considerably less likely.