Northwestern Once Again on the Outside Looking in at the NCAA Tournament

Ryne E. HancockCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2010

EVANSTON, IL - JANUARY 02: Kyle Rowley #54 of the Northwestern Wildcats battles for the ball with Derrick Nix #50 of the Michigan State Spartans on January 2, 2010 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On Monday night, two schools who had never tasted the Big Dance had a chance to punch their first ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Those two schools, William and Mary of the Colonial Conference and Wofford of the Southern Conference, had a chance to do so in the championship game of their respective conference.

In the end, Wofford would be the lucky ones, defeating App. State in the SoCon tournament for their first NCAA Tournament bid.

Why do I bring up Wofford in this column?

Because Wofford, which joined the Southern Conference in 1997-98, will be doing something that Northwestern University, which is on a list with William and Mary, Army, The Citadel, and St. Francis (NY), won't be doing.

Dancing in March.

I know that sounds like sour grapes, but at one point this year it seemed like Northwestern was going to make it.

Ranked in the top 25 for the first time since Richard Nixon was in office, Northwestern gets a big win against Purdue at home, followed by another big win against rival Illinois in Welsh-Ryan Arena in January.

But as my co-host Marty Mar said on last Wednesday, it's all about winning on the road against the best teams after the start of the New Year.

Northwestern didn't do that.

They fought well against Wisconsin and Michigan State on the road but then, coupled with those losses, the Wildcats lost to a 21-loss Iowa team, Penn State, and Indiana on the road.

Compare those losses with the ones against Wisconsin and Michigan State on the road and you get a typical Northwestern team that always seems to be the team that can break the cycle of futility in basketball and then poof, the chance goes up in smoke.

That my friend, is Northwestern basketball.

Going into this morning, a website that looks at the NIT picture showed Northwestern, which has an RPI of 117 going into the Big 10 tournament, as a team heading into CBI territory.

Quite a fall from where they were in December and early January, don't you think?