After winning one of two games in the Big Ten Tournament, Northwestern has made its way into the AP Poll (#22) and USA Today Coaches Poll (#25) for the first time this season. However, their standing in the bracketology of Charlie Creme, ESPN's resident bracketologist, took a small hit as the Wildcats dropped from an 8 seed to a 7 seed.
The change may seem small, but that means NU would, in all likelihood, face a 1 seed in the second round of the subregional. Creme's current 1 seeds have a total of six losses and include Maryland, the team that knocked the Wildcats out of the Big Ten Tournament behind another dominant second half performance.
Creme's bracketology still includes seven Big Ten teams, six of which are an 8 seed or better. Perhaps the oddest part is that Rutgers, who Northwestern beat convincingly twice at the end of the season, is ahead of NU at a 7 seed. Outside the head-to-head contests, their resumes are practically identical. Here's a look at how Northwestern's tournament resume stacks up next to several comparable squads.
|Team||Northwestern||Rutgers||Minnesota||Texas A&M||Oklahoma||Dayton||Syracuse||Green Bay|
|Conference||Big Ten||Big Ten||Big Ten||SEC||Big 12||A10||ACC||Horizon|
|Vs. AP Top 25||0-6||0-8||2-4||2-3||1-3||0-4||1-6||1-1|
|Bad Losses||PSU||-||Purdue, Vandy||-||Kansas||-||Wake Forest||Oakland, Vandy|
|Vs. Sagarin Top 50||8-7||5-9||5-6||5-6||6-9||1-4||3-8||1-2|
Northwestern should have the edge over both of its Big Ten foes here. Rutgers has nothing on NU, and although Minnesota got a pair of ranked wins, the Wildcats crushed them and the Gophers have a bad non-conference loss.
Syracuse and Oklahoma are essentially the ACC and Big 12 versions of Northwestern. They took care of business against all the teams they were supposed to beat, with one exception, but neither has more than one big upset.
The ACC is the best conference in women's basketball, so it makes sense that the Orange are ahead of Northwestern. The Big 12, however, is unlike the ACC and Big 12 in that it doesn't have a distinct top or bottom half. Every team is competitive. Thus, there's only one ranked squad in the conference and just two teams with more than 20 wins.
It'll be interesting to see how much the committee emphasizes strength of schedule, considering the conference differences and the presence of Dayton and Green Bay in the mix.
The only remaining knock on Northwestern, besides the Penn State loss, is that they don't have a signature win. The Wildcats beat DePaul, Minnesota and Rutgers, and they all currently sit just outside the AP top 25. NU competed for much of their contests with Iowa and Maryland but could not pull out a victory.
The tournament committee is of course going to focus on seeding first, but they also place a lot of emphasis on location and geography. For that reason, it wouldn't be surprising to see Northwestern in Notre Dame's subregional if the Wildcats are indeed an 8 seed.
Northwestern will find out their spot in the big dance when the NCAA Tournament selection show airs next Monday on ESPN at 6:00 PM central time.