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Northwestern lacrosse beats Michigan, clinches .500 record, likely locks up NCAA bid

Beating Michigan wasn't difficult, but that doesn't mean it wasn't important.

Big sigh of relief, Wildcat fans.

After a season where at times it looked like Northwestern lacrosse would be ineligible to make the postseason, a 20-5 win over Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Evanston officially sees Northwestern clinch a .500 record, and with it, postseason eligibility.

At this point, it would be nothing short of a huge surprise if Northwestern wasn't invited to the NCAA Tournament, even if it were to lose to Penn State in the Big Ten semifinals.

The women's lacrosse NCAA Tournament consists of 26 teams, of which 13 are automatic qualifiers from conference tournaments and 13 are selected as at-large teams. Barring a freakish amount of upset runs in conference tournaments, Northwestern should safely be in the top 13 non-conference title winning sides. Northwestern is ranked 13th in RPI, 1st in strength of schedule, and has wins over No. 6 Notre Dame, No. 7 Stony Brook, No. 13 Duke and No. 19 Ohio State.

Northwestern's devilish non-conference slate, in which it played every team ranked 3rd through 8th, was a root cause for all of the hand-wringing about their postseason fate, but it was also the reason why there is little doubt that the Wildcats will be in the field now.

Northwestern will enter the NCAA Tournament as a battle tested group with an offense that is clicking on all cylinders. They won't be an easy out for any team.

The NCAA Tournament bracket will be announced this Sunday, May 8th.