Big Ten

Northwestern's approach on eve of first-ever NCAA tournament game: 'Why would we come all this way and just go home?'

Northwestern's approach on eve of first-ever NCAA tournament game: 'Why would we come all this way and just go home?'

SALT LAKE CITY — It was a moment nearly eight decades in the making: Northwestern took the court at the NCAA tournament.

The Wildcats were still a day away from taking on the Vanderbilt Commodores in their first-ever NCAA tournament game, but there head coach Chris Collins was, monitoring both ends of Wednesday afternoon's open practice while pacing back and forth across the March Madness logo.

Northwestern ending its 78-year NCAA tournament drought is one of the biggest stories of this year's Big Dance, and certainly that Selection Sunday outburst of joy will remain unforgettable.

But for the Cats, being here is nowhere near enough, even if it might be for fans who have waited more than three quarters of a century for Northwestern to finally be on this stage. Collins and his players delivered a unanimous message Wednesday that one game is not nearly a long enough run in this NCAA tournament.

"Why would we come all this way and just go home?" Nathan Taphorn said.

The journey has been a long and well-chronicled one. Collins took over ahead of the 2013-14 season and in four years has taken the Big Ten's perennial basketball bottom-feeder and turned it into one of the conference's winning programs and an NCAA tournament particpant. Smashing through that program-specific barrier of getting to the tournament was terrific, monumental from an outsider's perspective. But inside the program, inside the locker room, just getting here is not how this team wants this story to end.

"I think we can't emphasize enough that this isn't the end goal. It's one of our goals to make the tournament, but we're not just satisfied to be here," Bryant McIntosh said. "We're going to go out and try and win a game and continue playing, playing for our lives, just to continue the season on. So it's been such a special year that you don't want to see it end. And that's why it's just a single goal and not the end goal."

"There's no question, the first time is special," Collins said. "The first selection show you watch when you see your name, it's special. And I want them to be excited. I want them to feel that they've done something really good. ... The thing I love about this group, though, is once kind of all that passed from Sunday into Monday, they've really locked into wanting to win here. They don't just want to be here and show up and go home. It's nice to be invited to the party. It's nice to be invited to the Dance. You want to stay a while. To do that you have to go out and win."

Collins is obviously a huge part of that mindset, and he can speak from experience.

Before coming to Northwestern, Collins spent a combined 17 years as a member of the Duke basketball program, four as a player and 13 as an assistant coach to Mike Krzyzewski. In that more than decade and a half of going to one NCAA tournament after another, Collins learned a thing or two about being on college basketball's biggest and brightest stage. He's trying to pass that down to his players.

"Obviously he’s been here before," Vic Law said. "He knows what the atmosphere’s like, he knows what the environment’s like. He’s really trying to prepare us mentally for that.

"(He's saying) that this isn’t going to be some regular, ordinary game. That our talk and our focus in these games is going to be really important. That you need to get your nerves out. We need to play confident and loose. This isn’t just some game. Obviously, we’ve never seen Vanderbilt play before, so we need to be even more locked in during film, during scouting."

So while this year's Northwestern group has already done the unthinkable, done something previously believed to be impossible, done more than every other Northwestern team ever combined to do, the question the Cats are asking themselves is a simple one: Why should they let it stop now?

"We all came here to be a part of a different Northwestern, and be a part of history. And we achieved that goal," Sanjay Lumpkin said. "And now that we are here we want to do everything we can to stay here. And this is not just the end goal for Northwestern basketball, we see this as the starting point, a new standard that can be set for our program.

"It's been a magical season, it's been awesome, none of us want to see the season end."

Big Ten to play conference-only NCAA football schedule 'if able'

Big Ten to play conference-only NCAA football schedule 'if able'

The Big Ten announced on Thursday that they will not play any non-conference games this fall, if they’re able to play at all.

The move comes after the Ivy League cancelled all fall sports earlier in the week.

In the statement the Big Ten said, “By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the Conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic.

“In addition, the Conference announced that summer athletic activities will continue to be voluntary in all sports currently permitted to engage in such activities. Furthermore, Big Ten student-athletes who choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the summer and/or the 2020-21 academic year due to concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarship honored by their institution and will remain in good standing with their team.”

The Big Ten also said they’re prepared to cancel their fall sports entirely, if needed to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes.

This all leads to more questions as to how the Big Ten schedule will ultimately take shape. For instance, the first three games on the University of Illinois’s schedule are all non-conference games. Will more in-conference games be scheduled to replace them, or will the Fighting Illini simply begin their season on Oct. 3 with their first conference game against Rutgers?

All of that remains to be seen, as the conference said more details regarding the conference-only schedule will be released later.


RELATED: Northwestern football will not host Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field

Northwestern football will not host Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field

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USA Today

Northwestern football will not host Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field

Northwestern football will no longer host their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field. The university announced the decision on Wednesday.

The Wildcats were supposed to play the Badgers at the Friendly Confines on Nov. 7. Although the university didn’t officially announce it, team's website says the game will be played at Ryan Field.

“This is a disappointing conclusion to reach, but absolutely the right one in our current environment,” said Jim Phillips, Northwestern’s Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation. “The uncertainty of football and baseball schedules, and the possibility of limited attendance, made this an easy choice to make for our student-athletes and fans.

“We’re grateful for our outstanding partners from the Cubs, and look forward to bringing the passion and pageantry of college football gameday to the city’s north side when we can do so safely and securely with a packed house.”

Northwestern initially brought college football back to Wrigley in 2010. Previously the last college football game at Wrigley was played in 1938. Since then, Northwestern has hosted both lacrosse and baseball games at Clark and Addison.

The university is still on track to kick off their season on Sept. 5 at Michigan State.

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