Poor Northwestern. Not only has its men's basketball team never played in the NCAA tournament, but this year's squad was a few painful losses away from doing so.
Well, I say the Wildcats will get redemption in the NIT, which perhaps is little consolation to some but is certainly better than nothing.
Colin Becht of The New York Times did a nice job of summing up Northwestern's trying year:
After an 18-13 season highlighted by an 81-74 upset of then-No. 6 Michigan State – the Spartans earned a No. 1 seed in the N.C.A.A. tournament – Northwestern’s penchant for close losses proved to be the downfall in its hopes for receiving a tournament bid. The Wildcats lost seven games by fewer than 6 points or in overtime, leaving them with just a 1-10 record against the top 50 of the Rating Percentage Index.
And most of those weren't losses to mediocre teams, either—Northwestern played some very good teams right down to the wire.
They lost to Michigan in overtime twice. They lost to Ohio State by two after Jared Sullinger hit a shot with 3.1 seconds remaining in the game. They took Indiana to the wire in a five-point loss.
Will Northwestern win the NIT?
Northwestern can hang with anyone. And finishing out games should prove to be easier for the Wildcats in the NIT than it was in the Big Ten, the country's toughest conference this season.
Plus, they are led by two players who have competed in their fair share of NIT games: senior John Shurna (19.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG) and junior Drew Crawford (16.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG). Shurna will be playing in his fourth NIT; Crawford in his third.
The Wildcats are due for a solid NIT. I say they get their glory at the tournament, even if it isn't the tourney they were hoping to play in.
Hit me up on Twitter—all of my tweets are Cinderella stories.