So while Northwestern didn't make the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever (and reporters secretly rejoiced because they can just reuse their stories next season), the Wildcats are in the postseason. In fact, they even have a home game.
In their was is the generously over seeded Milwaukee Panthers. How Harvard got a 6 seed and Milwaukee got a 5 seed I'll never really understand, even after the Crimson lost to Oklahoma State by 17 on Tuesday evening. (Actually, reasonable theories about it here.)
Still this should be a fun one! So come enjoy one more game at Welsh-Ryan Arena before the season runs out. (Because Boston College is probably going to make sure to schedule their ice hockey practices somewhere else for the second round.)
Northwestern vs. Milwaukee
Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Illinois
What: NIT First Round
When: 7 p.m. CT ESPN3.com
Chances: 88% according to current Ken Pomeroy rankings
What else you need to know: Ken Pomeroy predicts a blowout and with good reason, Milwaukee is just an okay team. The Panthers got an automatic bid to the NIT thanks to winning the Horizon League regular season title because of tiebreakers. They excel at winning close games and finished 7th in the nation in Pomeroy's "Luck" metric this season. The majority of it came during conference play, much to the befuddlement of my tempo-free rankings.
The Panthers shouldn't pose too many problems for Northwestern. Milwaukee's defensive strengths are Northwestern's (mainly ignored) offensive weaknesses, so I don't expect the Wildcats to have a problem scoring. Milwaukee is a pretty average shooting team too, so don't expect them to take advantage of all those open shots that the Wildcats seem to give up. The Horizon League already has one NIT win thanks to Cleveland State's three-point win over Vermont, but even if Milwaukee busses in a ton of fans it's hard to see where this victory would come from.
Another thing to watch? The somewhat hindered guys on both teams: John Shurna seemed to finally be rounding back into form in that game against Ohio State while Milwaukee's Tony Meier is working on a sprained ankle it appears. He was the Panthers' most efficient offensive player during the season, so if he's not 100% that's a big blow.
Full coverage of the game from Welsh-Ryan Arena on Wednesday night!