Big Ten

Collins riled by no call at end of regulation in Northwestern loss


Collins riled by no call at end of regulation in Northwestern loss

INDIANAPOLIS — Saying that Chris Collins was upset about a no call in the waning seconds of regulation in Thursday's Big Ten Tournament loss to Michigan would be putting it mildly.

Michigan's Duncan Robinson certainly looked like he took a few extra steps on an inbound play with the Wolverines up by just a point inside of 20 seconds to go. Instead, officials called a foul on Northwestern, Robinson split a pair of free throws and Alex Olah's putback basket with 0.1 seconds left on the clock forced overtime instead of advancing the Wildcats to the third day of the Big Ten Tournament.

The Cats went on to lose the game, 72-70, in the extra period.

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern comes up short in overtime loss to Michigan]

Would a travel call and an ensuing Northwestern possession have changed the outcome? We'll never know that. But Collins wasn't at all happy with the call — or lack thereof — and he believed it to be a reflection of Northwestern's status as a program, one that has improved under Collins but still has never reached an NCAA tournament.

"Looked like a lot of steps on the end line with Duncan Robinson, but I don't know. You guys watched the game," Collins, who could barely speak his voice was so gone, said during his postgame press conference. "Make your own determination.

"I think we're two good teams, two teams that deserve to win that game, honestly. And I guess our name isn't big enough yet, and that's something that we have to do for ourselves. We don't have the brand name yet, and so that's something that we're going to work on.

"It's a battle, fighting so hard. That's what I'm fighting, and that's what I'm going to keep fighting. And I'm really proud of my guys. We don't have that brand name on our chest, but you know what? We play good basketball. We're a good team now. I hope people take notice of that. I hope people take notice of that. We're a good basketball team and a good program. And we're going to keep getting better and hopefully one day we will be viewed as such."

Collins wasn't the only one in purple and white who thought the officials got it wrong. Sophomore point guard Bryant McIntosh agreed with his coach but didn't exactly express the same conspiracy theory.

"I felt like we deserved to win that game," McIntosh said. "I felt like we made the right plays, we made a lot of great plays to win the game, and we just came up short. We laid everything on the line, though. A lot of people are upset, heartbroken. I'm that, but I'm a little angry, just for the fact that I'm a competitor and I wanted to win that game. And it's upsetting.

"There's no question he travelled, but it's part of the human error in the game of basketball. Refs, they make mistakes just like we do on the floor. So you can point to that play, but you can also point to plays that we didn't make. So I'm not blaming (the loss) on that. We didn't make enough plays to win the game."

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Northwestern gear right here]

In many sporting events when controversial calls by officials seem to make a huge difference in the eyes of participants and onlookers, the bigger difference is almost always found elsewhere, and McIntosh said that.

The Cats shot just 25 percent in the first half and got a total of 10 points in the entire game from guys not named McIntosh, Olah and Tre Demps. Zak Irvin hit the game's biggest shot for Michigan, a game-winning jumper with three seconds left in overtime that beat the Northwestern defense. And even when gifted an opportunity at a game-winning shot when Derrick Walton Jr. stepped on the end line for a last-second turnover, the Cats came up empty.

None of that had anything to do with the lack of a travel call on Robinson or the officials' supposed lack of respect for the Northwestern basketball brand.

Collins certainly does have his program moving in the right direction. This season's 20 wins were the most in a regular season in program history. Collins' recruiting, when viewed through the lens of Northwestern seasons past, has been off the charts. He's transforming the Cats, and there's plenty of reason to be excited for the future.

But for now — whether because of the travel that wasn't or because of any number of other things — it was just another Thursday exit from the Big Ten Tournament.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?