Big Ten Basketball: Can The Northwestern Wildcats Finally Reach The Big Dance?

Pedro GonzalezContributor INovember 21, 2010

Shurna has been having a great year and will be a key player for NU.
Shurna has been having a great year and will be a key player for NU.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The last time Northwestern Wildcats hoops were actually relevant was way back in 1934 when they tied for second-place in the Big Ten, but since then they´ve vanquished from the national basketball scene.

As a young Wildcat fan I can only remember depressing moments, but apparently Northwestern Basketball once was a name of respect in the NCAA; according to the Helms Athletic Foundation, in 1931 NU was the National Champion and won the Big Ten. 

Yet those days seemed had longed passed, especially at the turn of the century when the Wildcats finished with a record of 5-25. Surprisingly, things started to turn around when, after firing head-coach Kevin O´Neill after that dreadful season and signing Bill Carmody.

Carmody over the next 10 seasons improved the Wildcats so much that in 2009 he commanded the team to their first ever 20-win season and back-to-back seasons with a NIT appearance.

Northwestern has played so well over the last couple of years, this preseason everybody from Dick Vitale to Sports Illustrated put them down as the dark-horse to — finally— reach the NCAA Tournament.

Led by John Shurna and Drew Crawford— whom are the top scorers in the conference with 22.7 and 20.7 PPG average— Northwestern is currently 3-0.

NU has an easy schedule in November and most of December, but on New Year´s Eve they´ll start conference play against No. 9 Purdue, following that game they´ll face No. 2 Michigan State and after that one they´ll play at No. 16 Illinois.

They´ll be lucky to win at least one of the games. And their schedule doesn´t get any easier as the season progresses. They play against Top 25 teams five other times and the Big Ten has become stronger.

Nevertheless the Wildcats can do something special this season and I think with the aforementioned players and Guard Michael Thompson, Northwestern will get 20 wins again.

If they can keep up the level of play and confidence, they can get deep into the Big Ten Tournament and get a 65 through 68 bid in the NCAA Tournament.

Although there will be many bumps on the road, I think the Wildcats will finally get to the"Big Dance."