You might be frustrated by the underperformance of the Gophers basketball team during much of the Tubby Smith era, but Northwestern has never, ever, not once been to the NCAA tournament.

That was on the verge of changing until Andre Hollins and the four-guard overtime offense knocked off the Wildcats on Thursday evening in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

The prevailing wisdom was that a good showing at the tournament for Northwestern would overcome an 8-10 conference record and a 1-10 record against Top 50 teams in college basketball's RPI.

Former Strib basketball writer Myron P. Medcalf, now with ESPN, wrote of Northwestern's clunker against the Gophers: "They were presented with an opportunity to make a statement on national TV Thursday. And the Wildcats ultimately offered an argument against their first-ever bid.

Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports wrote: "The Wildcats said the pressure of the situation did not get to them. They ran into a Minnesota team that has been playing dreadful basketball but shot the lights out early; that’s bad luck. But Northwestern regrouped to gradually take control of the game, then promptly gave it back at crunch time; that’s bad execution."

A Chicago Tribune account of the game was titled: "Northwestern plays so tight it strangles itself."

The Tribune's David Haugh wrote: "If a team can't beat the 10th-seeded team in the first round of the conference tournament on a neutral court, maybe it doesn't deserve to be in the NCAA tournament anyway."

And, of course, no Chicago-team sports failure is complete with a Chicago Cubs reference.

Again, from the Tribune's Haugh: "When (coach Bill) Carmody called timeout with 2:19 left and Northwestern clinging to a 61-59 lead, victory felt as close as it did for the Cubs when they were five outs away from the World Series in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. Over the next 7:19, including overtime, Northwestern lost the game more than Minnesota won it.

"If anybody needed any more confirmation the Wildcats had become the Cubs of college basketball, there it was."




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