Big Ten

Holy meow! Northwestern makes first NCAA tournament in program history

Holy meow! Northwestern makes first NCAA tournament in program history

For the first time ever, Northwestern is going dancing.

This special season reached its most important milestone on Selection Sunday, when the Wildcats were announced as part of the NCAA tournament field for the first time in program history.

The packed house at Welsh-Ryan Arena erupted when Northwestern was announced as the No. 8 seed in the West Region. The Cats will take on No. 9 seed Vanderbilt on Thursday in Salt Lake City.

It's been a long time coming for the school that played host to the first-ever NCAA tournament back in 1939. The Cats weren't a part of that year's field, nor were they part of any field for the next 78 years.

But the day has finally come, even though we've known it was coming for a while now — wins at Wisconsin and then at home against Michigan seemed to seal the deal on two separate occasions. This has been an incredible season at Northwestern, and these Cats have already accomplished so many program firsts. They won 10 games during Big Ten play for the first time, and just this week in Washington, D.C., they advanced to their first Big Ten Tournament semifinal. They have won a program-record 23 games, a number that could get even bigger in the NCAA tournament.

Surely, though, no program first is bigger than this invitation to the Big Dance.

Head coach Chris Collins has done a remarkable job in his four years helming the program. The longtime Duke assistant personality, experience at one of college basketball's best programs and lineage — he's the son of former Bulls head coach Doug Collins — brought immediate excitement to a program that rarely experienced that emotion. He started his tenure with unprecedented recruiting success, bringing in some of the highest-rated recruits the program had ever seen.

In his first season, Collins led the Cats to eye-opening road wins at Indiana and Wisconsin, the latter boasting a team that made that season's Final Four. In his second season, the Cats won five of their last seven regular-season games and broke in star freshmen Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey. Last season, the Cats went 12-1 in non-conference play, the lone loss to a North Carolina team that ended up in the national championship game. You could see Collins building his program.

This season featured notable non-conference wins over Texas and Dayton, as well as some of those "quality" losses that always show up on NCAA tournament resumes to the likes of Notre Dame and Butler. Northwestern went on an impressive six-game winning streak during conference play that appeared the inverse of the long Big Ten losing streaks Collins' teams went through in his first few seasons in Evanston.

A bad stretch did strike. Lindsey came down with a case of mono, throwing a wrench into the Cats' flow, particularly on the offensive end. Northwestern lost five of seven, but one of the two wins came on the road against a ranked Wisconsin team, a monumental victory that seemed to punch the team's ticket to the tournament. As a few losses continued to pile up, plenty worried the Cats might've been floating to the wrong side of that tournament bubble. But a win against Michigan that ended in a court-length pass from Nathan Taphorn to Dererk Pardon for a buzzer-beating basket — a play similar to the famed Grant Hill heave to Christian Laettner in the 1992 NCAA tournament — erased any doubts and signaled this would be the year.

You could tell Northwestern arrived when CBS showed up for the regular-season finale against Purdue and put a rollicking Welsh-Ryan Arena crowd on national TV, with play-by-play man Jim Nantz calling it one of the best atmospheres he's seen in his illustrious career. The Cats might have even boosted their tournament seed with back-to-back wins in this week's Big Ten Tournament, including a Friday-night victory over Maryland in front of a raucous pro-Terps crowd at the Verizon Center.

McIntosh and Lindsey earned All-Big Ten honors this season, and Law was named to the conference's all-defensive team. Pardon figures to get those kinds of accolades soon.

It's been a mighty long wait for fans of Chicago's Big Ten Team. But this is a drought-busting year in the Windy City, right, Cubs fans?

For those who thought they'd never see it, believe it. The Cats are going dancing.

Big Ten officially postpones 2020 college football, other fall sports

Big Ten officially postpones 2020 college football, other fall sports

The Big Ten has officially postponed all fall sports, including football, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The conference announced the decision in a statement on Tuesday, but left the door open for the fall sports to be played next spring.

“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.
 
“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”

In addition to football, cross country, field hockey, soccer and women’s volleyball seasons were postponed.

“The Big Ten Conference will continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring,” the conference said in the statement. “Decisions regarding winter and spring sports will also continue to be evaluated.”


RELATED: Notre Dame will play for ACC conference championship in 2020 football season


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Reports: 2020 Big Ten football season in jeopardy due to COVID-19

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USA Today

Reports: 2020 Big Ten football season in jeopardy due to COVID-19

There may be no college football for Big Ten schools this fall.

According to several reports, the Big Ten school presidents voted 12-2 on Sunday to not play football this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dan Patrick, the two schools in favor of playing were Iowa and Nebraska. There are conflicting reports on whether the season will be postponed or canceled, but Dan Patrick says the official news will be released tomorrow.

On his show, Patrick said he followed up with his source, who said, “Three Big Ten teams that I’ve spoken with said, ‘It’s done.’”

In response, more reports have come out saying the SEC has gathered for a previously unscheduled meeting on Monday morning.

According to Patrick’s report, the SEC is trying to delay and see if either the ACC or Big 12 will join them in playing this fall.

The MAC conference decided to cancel it’s football season on Aug. 8.

In addition, on Aug. 5 a coalition of Big Ten players published a Players’ Tribune article asking for a comprehensive plan to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic if the league was to go forward with the season.

RELATED: Northwestern Wildcats pause football workouts after positive COVID-19 test


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