The Wildcats are one of the original five division one programs who has never made a NCAA Tournament. After getting off to an 18-4 start, Northwestern seemed to lock up their first tournament bid. Chris Collins’ group hit a rough patch losing five of their next seven games and started to give their fans more heart attacks than Bobby Huggins. On March 1st against Michigan, in arguably the most important game in Northwestern program history, senior forward Nathan Taphorn threw a full court baseball pass to sophomore forward Dererck Pardon who converted on a layup as time expired to give the Wildcats a 67-65 win over the Wolverines. Can Northwestern make some more magic in March?
Nothing about the Wildcats is going to make your jaw drop. Northwestern plays solid basketball and doesn’t boast the athleticism or talent that a majority of other tournament teams possess. But a major key to Northwestern’s success this year has been their ability to take care of the orange. The Wildcats are 13th in the country in offensive turnover percentage according to KenPom.
Junior guard Bryant McIntosh can take much of the credit for his team’s prosperity on the offensive end. McIntosh is averaging 14 points and a little over five assists per contest. When you watch Northwestern, it’s evident that the offense runs through McIntosh as his ability to score and find open shooters such as Scottie Lindsey and Victor Law allow the Wildcats to perform well and cause issues for opposing defenses.
While Northwestern excels in limiting turnovers, they struggle to capitalize on great possessions with their horrid shooting percentages. The Wildcats are 221st in the nation in field goal percentage and 229th in three-point percentage. In past NCAA Tournaments, often times better offensive teams hold an advantage compared to sub-par offensive groups. If Northwestern isn’t getting shots to fall and their defense is getting exposed, it could be an ugly first tournament appearance for the Wildcats.