By Adam Hoge –
INDIANAPOLIS (CBS) Never say never.READ MORE: Jussie Smollett Trial: Jury Could Get Case As Trial Resumes Monday
At least that’s what Northwestern fans are telling themselves this weekend after the Wildcats lost to Minnesota Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The loss severely damaged their chances of receiving their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth when a win likely would have put them in.
That said, not all has gone wrong for the Wildcats elsewhere this weekend and when you compare their resume to the other bubble teams, there’s a decent chance the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will put them in the field.
At this point, we know Northwestern’s resume. The Cats have no bad losses, but are only 1-10 in opportunities to get a marquee win. They have an RPI of 60.
With that in mind, below are 12 bubble teams competing with Northwestern for what I believe are six spots:
Better Than Northwestern
Colorado State Rams (20-11, 8-6 Mountain West) – The Rams have three wins over RPI top 50 teams, beating UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico (all NCAA Tournament teams) at home. The problem is that it took them until March 3 to get their first road conference win and they have two road losses against RPI 100+ teams. Still, their resume looks better than Northwestern’s. RPI: 27.
Miami Hurricanes (19-12, 9-7 ACC) – The Hurricanes have two RPI top 50 wins, including a great win at Duke that far surpasses anything Northwestern has done. They also have an RPI 100+ loss at Maryland, however, and only have three RPI Top 100 wins, while the Wildcats have five. It’s close, but the Hurricanes get the nod.
Debatable With Northwestern
North Carolina State Wolfpack (22-12, 9-7 ACC) – The Wolfpack are just 1-7 against RPI top 50 teams and their lone win was against Texas, whereas Northwestern beat Michigan State. The Wolfpack also have two losses against RPI 100+ teams, including a home loss to Georgia Tech. Northwestern beat the Yellow Jackets by 16 on the road. RPI: 49
South Florida Bulls (20-13, 12-6 Big East) – The Bulls are 2-9 against the RPI top 50, which is similar to Northwestern, but also better. They also have three losses against RPI 100+ teams, however, and the Wildcats have none. Their two RPI top 50 wins, however, were against Louisville (on the road no less) and Cincinnati, which played in the Big East title game. This one is really a coin flip. RPI: 53.
Ole Miss Rebels (20-13, 8-8 SEC) – The Rebels went 1-6 against RPI Top 50 teams, but they also have an RPI 100+ loss on the road at Auburn. That’s one more bad loss than Northwestern has and they didn’t finish above .500 in a much worse conference than the Big Ten. RPI: 54.READ MORE: Delivery Driver Shot In Head In Back of The Yards; 18-Year-Old Struck In Thigh
Seton Hall Pirates (20-12, 8-10 Big East) – The Pirates have three RPI Top 50 wins, but they also have three RPI 100+ losses, including that 28 point butt-whooping at DePaul March 3. That probably evens up their resume with Northwestern, but then, oh yeah, the Wildcats beat Seton Hall straight up 80-73 on a neutral floor in November. RPI: 67.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-11, 8-8 SEC) – The Bulldogs have two top 50 wins, but neither (at Vandy, home against Alabama) stack up to Northwestern’s win over Michigan State. They have seven Top 100 wins overall, but also have two RPI 100+ losses. Mississippi State’s resume is equal to Northwestern’s at best. RPI: 74.
Worse Than Northwestern
California Golden Bears (24-9, 13-5 Pac 12) – The Bears have zero wins against RPI top 50 teams, going 0-3 in opportunities to get one. Northwestern obviously has more losses because they played 11 top 50 teams. The Bears also have 2 losses to RPI 100+ teams, but when you factor in the RPI top 100, Cal has four more wins than Northwestern. That’s a result of the Big Ten being much better than the Pac 12, however. The Wildcats’ resume is simply better. RPI: 36.
Arizona Wildcats (23-10, 12-6 Pac 12) – Like Northwestern, these Wildcats only have one RPI top 50 win as well, but Arizona is also 5-8 against top 100 teams and Northwestern is 5-13. Arizona also has two brutal losses at UCLA and at, gulp, Arizona State (which has an RPI of 251). RPI: 73.
Oregon Ducks (22-9, 13-5 Pac 12) – Oregon has zero top 50 wins and also lost at home to an awful Oregon State team. They have five top 100 wins like Northwestern, but you just can’t ignore that loss to the Beavers. RPI: 64.
Washington Huskies (21-10, 14-4 Pac 12) – The Huskies also have zero Top 50 wins and only four top 100 wins, which is less than Northwestern. They also have suffered two RPI 100+ losses in the last week. Northwestern’s resume is much better. RPI: 68.
Drexel Dragons (27-6, 16-2 Colonial) – Everyone loves to talk about the Dragons’ 19-game win-streak, but that happens when you play 15 teams with an RPI over 200. Drexel’s only top 50 win is against VCU at home and they couldn’t beat the Rams in the Colonial tournament. They also lost to Norfolk State, Georgia State and Delaware. There’s no comparison to Northwestern’s resume here. RPI: 66.
13 teams. Six spots. And when you narrow it down further like I did above, I think Northwestern should really only be competing with those five “debatable” teams for four spots. None of those five teams have resumes that are clearly better than the Wildcats’ though.
With that in mind, I think Northwestern gets in and plays Tuesday or Wednesday in Dayton.
MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Wind Advisory In Effect; Temperature Drop Monday
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.