I am a diehard Cubs fan. For years, my sports white whale was watching the Cubs win the World Series. It finally happened in the fall of 2016 (and I had fallen asleep in the 9th inning because of a 6am flight the next day, as Juan reminds us). I bought everything possible: shirts, pint glasses, the Blu-Ray, etc. My favorite is a short that simply says “It Happened” with “2016 World Series Champions”. I hope to do the same some day when Purdue wins its first National Championship in basketball.
How is this related to our next game? Well, Northwestern had a similar moment about 9 months ago. They were one of five schools, along with Army, The Citadel, William & Mary, and St, Francis (NY) that had been eligible for EVERY NCAA basketball tournament since it started in 1939, but they had never played in it. Their suffering was made worse because they were in the Big Ten, and at one time not only had the other 11 members played in the tournament, they had played in a Final Four (yes, Penn State has been in a Final Four). Under Bill Carmody they came agonizingly close several times, but never got that one victory to put them in.
Then, in March, it happened.
Northwestern finally made it. As a Cubs fan, I was elated for them. Not only did they make the tournament, they won a game and scared the living crap out of No. 1 seed Gonzaga before falling in round 2. They were more than happy to be there. They did some damage and returned much of that team intact. Entering the 2017-18 season Northwestern was not only seeking another NCAA berth, they were looking to contend for a Big Ten title.
Things have not gone as planned, but this is still an experienced and dangerous team. The Wildcats have gotten off to a rough start, but they are a team with more than enough talent to ruin the party tomorrow as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of our beloved Mackey Arena.
From: Evanston, IL
Date : Sunday, December 3, 2017
Tip Time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 14
2016-17 Record: 24-12, 10-8 Big Ten, reached NCAA Second Round
2017-18 Record: 5-3, 1-0 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: InsideNU
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 126-46
Last Northwestern Win: 74-65 at Purdue on 3/5/2017
Last Purdue Win: 69-65 at Northwestern on 2/16/2016
NCAA Tournament History: 1 appearance, reached 2017 Second Round
Coach: Chris Collins (78-63 in 5th year at Northwestern)
The first few weeks of the season have been rough on the Wildcats, but they gritted out a 72-68 win in overtime at “home” Friday night over Illinois. When much of the Big Ten is about defending home court and you’re basically playing an entire season on the road (Welsh-Ryan Arena is closed this season for renovations and they are playing in Rosemont this year) you still need to take your road games.
That is one of the few good moments so far, as Northwestern lost their Gavitt Games game 92-88 to Creighton, their ACC/Big Ten challenge game at Georgia Tech 52-51, and their exempt tournament final 85-49 to Texas Tech.
Aside from the win over Illinois, any time they have played a real team they have lost. Their other wins are over Loyola-MD 79-75, St. Peter’s 75-66, LaSalle 82-74, and Sacred Heart 81-50.
This is still a good team though. Fewer teams in the conference have as much experience as them, and that includes us. The usual suspects of Scottie Lindsey, Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law, and Dererk Pardon have been in Evanston for ages, and Law and Pardon are still juniors. They are all averaging in double figures, while Gavin Skelly is still the solid bench forward that serves a lot of roles.
That might be part of the reason Northwestern has struggled. We know what they are and they haven’t really changed. Barret Benson (son of Purdue’s Cliff Benson) is only averaging 1.6 points per game in 11 minutes, and he is their tallest player. Given that Isaac Haas (with two fully functioning limbs) just laid waste to Maryland, he should feast at home.
That’s really what this comes down to. Northwestern is a very experienced team coming in to Mackey Arena wanting to ruin our celebration. We ruined their celebration last year by closing Welsh-Ryan for renovations with a nice road win in a game that meant nothing to us. They don’t have the size to do much against Haas and Matt Haarms. We’re also playing at home.
Rarely am I haughty, but we win this. Purdue 78, Northwestern 70