Winning the close ones is paying off for Northwestern. After getting six-point victories against Indiana and Illinois this past week, the Wildcats have moved up to a 9 seed in ESPN's latest bracketology.
Northwestern is now 7-5 in conference and right in the mix with the Big Ten's other potential tourney teams. ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme still has eight Big Ten teams in the tourney, including Northwestern, Ohio State (7 seed), Minnesota (9) and Michigan (12).
Joe McKeown has not recorded more than seven conference wins at Northwestern during his six full seasons in Evanston. He has a good chance to move the Wildcats to 9-5 this week though. NU goes on the road to face Purdue (10-13, 3-9) Wednesday and then travels to Ann Arbor to face Michigan (14-9, 6-6) Saturday.
To finish the season strong, NU will need their starters to return to full health. Sophomore guard Christen Inman sat out the Illinois game Saturday, and junior forward Lauren Douglas doesn't seem to be at 100 percent after missing three games in mid-January with a lower body injury.
Northwestern has coped well with injuries to this point, but the schedule closes on match-ups with two ranked opponents in Rutgers and Maryland. Then, the Wildcats will get another challenge at the Big Ten tournament (March 4-8) in Hoffman Estates.
Other sites aren't quite as high on Northwestern as ESPN is, but they still have the Wildcats in the big dance.
RealTimeRPI.com: 12 seed
College Sports Madness: 12 seed