Northwestern basketball upset Iowa tonight, setting up a date with Tom Izzo and Michigan State in the next round of the Big Ten Tournament. It's difficult to beat the same team three times in a single season, as the very shopworn cliche goes. MSU beat NU by double digits twice this season. However, Iowa beat Northwestern basketball twice, by 26 points each time, and they were still upset by the Wildcats in Indianapolis.
NU is now 3-0 in the state of Indiana. And on day one of the Big Ten Tournament, teams from the state of Illinois represented; while teams from other states that start with the letter "I" were sent packing from the Big Ten Tourney.
Iowa basketball had beaten Northwestern basketball five in a row heading into this one. Now the Hawkeyes have lost seven of their last eight overall; the only win over very hapless Purdue.
The Hawks are still dancing, but they are totally collapsing right now, and playing their worst basketball at the absolute worst possible time. After losing at home to Illinois, Fran McCaffery was asked about Iowa's NCAA Tourney resume he said:
"I don't know, I'm not Joe Lunardi." He should have said: "I'm not David Kmiecik,"
As Dave actually had a more accurate bracket projection than Lunardi.
For the Northwestern basketball program, it's win the Big Ten Tourney or no postseason in 2013-14. There are no NCAA, or even NIT, bubbles. Having no pressure on them allows Chris Collins' team to play with a chillax attitude here at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and that can ameliorate their level of play.
"We talked about the fact that there is really no pressure on us," said Collins.
"We should take our shots confidently. We should play with a spirit to us that there's nothing holding us back. But our guys did a great job, and sometimes it's funny, the power of the mind. When you do that, it's funny how sometimes you shoot better."
Northwestern Athletic Director Jim Phillips was on hand for this one. Taking in the game from courtside, right behind the NU bench. He's used to seeing Northwestern football beat Iowa. Now he got a chance to see Northwestern basketball dispatch the Hawkeyes.
Perhaps he will return tomorrow night when the Wildcats take on the #3 seed Michigan State Spartans, in a game where they will be huge underdogs.
"As a competitor, I start thinking about the game. We didn't do a good job of playing defense against them," said Tre Demps about the first two meetings with the Spartans.
"We felt like we scored the ball well, but we didn't fight that game. I think playing against those guys, they're very similar to Iowa."
"For us to come here and prepare and to get a win and now have a chance to be able to play Michigan State, which to me is the standard of excellence in this league. There's a lot of great, great programs, and that in no way, shape or form does it disrespect anyone else in our league," said Chris Collins.
"We've got as good a league as there is. But what Coach Izzo has done with his program, the kind of kids he has, the way he's won, that's a standard of excellence, and now we have a chance to rest up and come back tomorrow and compete against them and see how we can do."
Yes indeed. Over time, Indiana has been the gold standard of the Big Ten. They have the most storied history. However, if you're someone from my generation, born in the '70s or '80s, you know that MSU has supplanted the Hoosiers as the class of the league. They are the primary Big Ten program.
They're hard to predict in the Big Ten Tournament. State usually has a bye to the second round, and they same to be kind of all-or-nothing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the United Center. They usually win the whole thing, or get bounced in their first game, and it's anyone's guess which Spartans team will show up tomorrow. For Tom Izzo and MSU, their season is always defined by March Madness. And by that I mean what they do in late March into April. Not early to mid March.
For Jim Phillips, Chris Collins, and Northwestern basketball Izzo and Michigan State is the ceiling. That's the level you want to get to.
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on multiple news talk radio stations. The former NBC Chicago and Washington Times contributor has also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) you should too
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