Matchup: NCAA West Regional(!) # 8 Northwestern Wildcats (23-11) vs # 9 Vanderbilt Commodores (19-15)
Date: Thursday, 16 March, 2017 3:30 pm CDT, Salt Lake City UT
Line: Northwestern (+3), O/U: 130
Outlook: Sorry for the mid-March emergency Lowes Line, as the next one wasn't scheduled for another 5+ months, but this had to be done. Let's get this out of the way right out of the gate: Holy Effing Hell, Northwestern is in the NCAA Tournament!
By now you know the story. After
a wait of forever years, Northwestern has finally made the field for
the NCAA Basketball Tournament, four years after Chris Collins took
over a program that had made the NIT a handful of times, but could
never get over the hump.
conference wins. The solid road wins. The big one at Wisconsin. The
miracle against Michigan. Getting to the conference tournament
semifinals for the first time ever. It all added up to the first trip to March Madness for Northwestern, and madness it is for Wildcat fans.
'Cats drew an 8 seed, which is pretty much a toss up, and they're
installed as a 21-foot jumper of an underdog against Vanderbilt out of
the SEC, a battle-tested squad whose record doesn't look too pretty,
but don't let that fool you.
As to the opponent, this tournament gives you only a small opportunity to get into gory detail on the team you'll be facing. When
discussing Vanderbilt, Coach Collins, paraphrasing Jim Morrison, said,
"There are things known and things unknown, and in between are the
had only one loss considered bad, getting blown out at Missouri, and
six very strong wins, although three of them came against Florida. What's more concerning to Wildcat fans is the way Vandy plays. They
spread the ball around very well, with four players averaging in double
figures, and all of them, including 7-1 senior Luke Kornet, can hit the
It's going to take strong perimeter defense for the 'Cats to win this one. Vandy averages about 5 more attempted threes per game than NU, and hits them at a greater clip. NU
can't afford to get into foul trouble here, which sounds obvious, but
it's as much due to the need to get out on defense and defend the arc,
not exactly a Nathan Taphorn core competency.
I don't think NU will be feeling "just happy to be here." I think they have a good shot, and can present matchup problems if both Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey are on. If
they can avoid the prolonged scoring droughts that have hurt them in
several games in late February, NU will get itself the first tourney
win in school history.
PICK: Northwestern 66, Vanderbilt 63. Go 'Cats!!