A new year means a fresh, new start for many. But, for the Northwestern basketball program, their fresh start on this season started a couple months ago.
After opening the 2022-2023 season on a five-game winning streak, the Wildcats dropped a close one-point game against Auburn who ranked 13th at the time. Another loss against Pittsburgh on November 28 would put them at 5-2. But after sweeping their opponents in the month of December and pulling off a few key Big Ten wins against Michigan State (ranked 20th at the time), Illinois, and Indiana (15) over the weekend, the Wildcats have come to play in a tough conference.
Now ranked 2nd in the Big Ten standings with a 12-3 record, this Northwestern basketball team shows no signs of slowing down as things really begin to ramp up for college hoops.
How The Wildcats Got Here
As the saying goes, “defense wins championships.” While the Northwestern mens’ basketball team hasn’t quite won a Big Ten title or D1 tourney just yet, their defensive play this season has helped them get to where they are now.
To put it simply: they’re intense. If the offense struggles to get things going early, their defensive effort keeps them within striking distance all game long. And if the offense starts scoring early and often, well, good luck to whoever they’re facing.
Statistically, they’re holding opposing teams to an average of 57.2 points per game. On defense, Northwestern basketball ranks as a top 10 unit in the country. Seniors Chase Audige, Boo Buie, and Robbie Beran are leading the charge, with Audige averaging 2.6 steals per game. If they can find the same consistency on offense as they have on defense, there’s no telling how far this Northwestern basketball team will go in the spring.
Will We See Northwestern Basketball During March Madness?
If they keep playing the way they are now, we don’t see how they don’t make it.
The last time we saw the Northwestern basketball program take part in the tournament was back in 2017. It was the school’s first appearance in history, and in their first go-around they found success early against Vanderbilt with a 68-66 victory in the classic 8-9 matchup. Unfortunately in the second round, the eventual 2017 runner-up, Gonzaga, managed to knock them out of the tournament with a six point win.
There’s clearly plenty of basketball left to be played until this year’s tournament, but it’s pretty obvious that Northwestern is on the right track to secure a bid into the dance. Just in the past week alone they’ve beaten Illinois and Indiana. Over the next month, and really the rest of the regular season, they’ll be focused on winning games in the Big Ten to keep themselves at the top of the standings.
The team’s toughest stretch on paper appears to take place in the first half of February, where they’ll face Wisconsin (currently #14), Ohio State (currently #24), Purdue (currently #1), and Indiana (currently #15) over the span of ten days. Should the guys manage to win a couple games during that stretch, they’ll put themselves in the perfect place to be listed on brackets when March rolls around.