Big Ten

Scottie Lindsey's three big games in D.C. bode well for Northwestern in NCAA tournament

Scottie Lindsey's three big games in D.C. bode well for Northwestern in NCAA tournament

SALT LAKE CITY — Scottie Lindsey is back.

Yeah, he's been back on the floor for a while now after a four-game, illness-induced absence at the beginning of February. But after going three weeks without any exercise, Northwestern's one-time leading scorer finally feels back to normal after a stellar trio of games at the Big Ten Tournament last week in Washington.

"I think Washington helped me get my conditioning back and my legs back, get my rhythm back, my shot back," Lindsey said Wednesday, a day before the Wildcats' first-ever NCAA tournament game. "It was definitely a good experience for me in Washington."

Getting Lindsey back to what he was doing earlier in the season is key for the Cats if they're going to make any kind of run in the NCAA tournament. They did make a run in the Big Ten Tournament, playing three games in three days all the way to the tournament semifinals — one of many firsts for this year's team — and getting 16-, 17- and 16-point efforts from Lindsey in the three games, respectively.

Entering the conference tournament, Lindsey had struggled to regain his shot out of that four-game absence. He scored in double figures just once and shot 27.5 percent from the field over a five-game stretch to close the regular season. What his production would be as Northwestern hit March was a mystery, but he stepped up in Washington, as did Vic Law, who after slumping a bit at the end of the regular season matched Lindsey's 33 combined points in the Cats' two wins in D.C.

Northwestern ran out gas in that tournament, getting thumped by Wisconsin in the aforementioned semifinals. But wins over Rutgers and Maryland were confidence boosters, especially in a year where the Cats finally have some more to play for.

Similarly, with three games in three days, Lindsey gained mental confidence that he's back physically. Good thing, too, because now it's time for the win-or-go-home games, where Northwestern will need Lindsey to produce if it's going to accomplish its goal of doing more than just showing up to the Big Dance.

"That whole tournament was a confidence-builder for me and the team," Lindsey said. "Despite how we lost to Wisconsin, getting those two wins was really big for us, and I think it will help us going into this game."

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Northwestern and Illinois’ college football programs are ranked in the top 10 this year.

Kind of.

One esteemed name in the college football ranks has placed Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald atop the list of the all-time greatest college coaches…ranked as players. Illini coach Lovie Smith ranks at No. 10.

Rich Cirminiello, Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club, compiled the list and he is an excellent follow on Twitter. He has several other noteworthy lists of interest, including the top college football players who are now coaches in the NFL. Psst…spoiler alert: several local connections are on that particular list as well, including Saints head coach Sean Payton (QB, Eastern Illinois) and Ron Rivera (LB, California).

But back to Coach Fitz, who bleeds purple and has emphatically put the NU football program on the map since the mid-90s. He was a two-time All-American in addition to receiving consecutive Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker (1995-96). He helped guide the Wildcats to the ’96 Rose Bowl. Since becoming the team’s head coach in 2006, he has led the program to nine bowl games (four wins).

We all know Lovie Smith’s coaching legacy with the Bears and his rebuilding of the Illinois football program, but did you know how much he dominated as a college player? He played for Tulsa from 1976-79, racking up 367 career tackles primarily as a safety. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference award winner and earned a second-team All-America mention in 1978. He was also named MVC Newcomer of the Year after he tallied 90 tackles as a freshman.

[MORE: Lovie Smith, Mike Tirico discuss systemic racism 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who passed for over 11,000 yards in seven seasons as a Chicago Bear, ranked No. 2 on Cirminiello’s list. In a follow-up tweet, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, who dominated as a wide receiver at NIU and at nearby Kaneland High School, came in at No. 20. Western Michigan’s Tim Lester —a star player at Wheaton Warrenville South HS— is in at No. 7.

Who said that the Land of Lincoln didn’t have top college football talent?

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Professional, collegiate and prep sports have been on hold in Illinois since mid-March but it looks like there may be more light at the end of the tunnel. This time, in Evanston.

Northwestern University announced Thursday that a phased reopening of the athletic department, in tandem with NU’s overall policy for a return to campus, will include student athlete workouts on Monday June 22.

The relaunch of athletics at Northwestern during the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the state of Illinois is progressing in its own planned reopening, as dictated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The sports medicine staff, athletic trainers and student-athletes with post-injury needs were welcomed back earlier this month and other select groups will be admitted back to campus next week.

Athletes will be required to complete a full physical upon arrival in Evanston on June 22. They will be screened before entering on-site facilities by means of a wellness check and a no-touch temperature scan.

Facility access will be managed through one entrance and exit. Locker facilities and lounges will remain closed, though, along with dining centers.

[MORE: Shortened NFL preseason puts big group of players at a disadvantage]

The Wildcats football team, along with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, are penciled in to begin those voluntary workouts a week from Monday. Each unit should have plenty of motivation once they hit the playing surface.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and company are eager to put last year’s 3-9 mark behind them. On the hardwood, Chris Collins’ group needs a quick bounce-back after an 8-23 mark last season while the women’s team, under the tutelage of Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe McKeown, are looking to build off a stellar 2019-20 campaign. They won the their first conference championship since 1989-90 and boasted a school record 26 wins.

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.