By Vince Gerasole

(CBS) — NCAA Tournament fever is spreading in Evanston, and the excitement is contagious.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole talks with Northwestern University alums, who are also getting in on the fun.

Class of 1959 member Joe Ruklick, who played on NU’s basketball team, says people back then warned him, “When you go up to Northwestern, you gotta learn to play bridge.”

Athletics had a differ reputation back then at Northwestern.

“A reputation about indifference to sports,” Ruklick says.

In spite of that, he and his team finished second in the Big Ten, and he couldn’t be prouder of the current team, which takes on Vanderbilt Thursday afternoon in Utah in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I am certain if we played this team for 100 games we would not win one of them with my 1959 team,” Ruklick says.

Joe Flanagan, class of 1986, feels “off the charts, over the moon.”

Back in 1983, his team was Northwestern’s first  to make it into the second-tier National Invitation Tournament, balancing athletics with a  growing scholarly pedigree.

“Every guy I played with was very smart,” he says. “People had intellect and talent to compete in the classroom.”

And in 1994, Kip Kirpatrick’s team made it to another NIT, even as academic performance remained the top priority.

This year’s team is furthering that tradition, he says.

“The expectation is, why can’t we be the best on the court and the best in the classroom?” he says.

[graphiq id=”b7mRMwDmY85″ title=”NCAA Basketball Tournament History” width=”600″ height=”300″ url=”″ link=”” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]