College basketball is a treat. For those who treat the sport as a bridge between professional football and baseball, my condolences. The regular season always packs a punch with a variety of upsets and intriguing stories, but the narrative is taken to uncharted heights when March rolls around.
March is the bedrock of college hoops, and it was illustrated as such on its first day Wednesday night, where Northwestern defeated Michigan 67-65 in the closing seconds on a half-court heave and hoop.
Yes, that’s NCAA basketball in a nutshell. And in particular, this Big Ten season has been plump with nail-biters and can-you-believe-that moments? The Wildcats surpassed that threshold with a critical home victory over in dramatic fashion over a proven conference team.
Let’s take a closer look at the game.
What We Learned:
1.Put the Wildcats in the tournament.
Could they beat either of the two? After losing three of four contests following a win over Wisconsin, I sure did not think so.
Nate Taphorn and Derek Pardon had something to say about that. If you have yet to see the play yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.
The ball launched by Taphorn symbolized the Wildcats’ NCAA tournament dreams as it soared through the air, would it fizzle to the floor or inexplicably find the cylinder?
The latter. Pardon collected the ball and finished with a layup and sent the crowd in Evanston into a frenzy. With the win, Northwestern set a program record with 21 wins and an over-.500 conference record.
Pencil them in your bracket.
2. Michigan is still in the big dance.
Sure, this loss was crushing for the Wolverines, but this should not impede their chances of reaching the coveted NCAA tournament.
This game could have easily went in favor of the maize and blue. A couple of troubling decision in the closing seconds by Derrick Walton Jr. opened the door for a play that likely would have checked in at Vegas at 1-100.
Please, do not dismiss Michigan’s victories over Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
These guys should be NCAA tournament locks.
3. The Wildcats have learned to score without its leader.
As it stands, Scottie Lindsey is the leading scorer for Northwestern, but his spot at the top could be gone in a blink.
While Lindsey missed four games with an illness, Bryant McIntosh and Vic Law have stepped in and provided a crutch to a depleted Wildcat offense.
In particular, Macintosh—trailing Lindsey for the team-lead with 14.3 points a contest—has rose to the occasion and outperformed his average in the last three of four performances.
Northwestern: After a game that all but sealed up its quest for the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats look for yet another statement win Sunday, where they finish their conference season in a showdown with No. 16 Purdue.
Michigan: The Wolverines will have to regroup from this crushing defeat and end their Big Ten season on a high note in their finale in Nebraska on Sunday night.