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Inside NU Mailbag, 12/11: The best wildcat, Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament hopes, and NFL rumors

Only the hottest cat takes allowed.

Northwestern has played one (1) sporting event since December 3rd, so we got Tristan Jung to write another mailbag column for this week. He’s supposedly answered these questions, but we’re not sure if they are any good.

Q. Which of the two American Big Cats is better: the Jaguar or the Mountain Lion? What about the three Wild Cats: Ocelot, Lynx or Bobcat? - (@FakeCoachFitz)

The jaguar is the best of the two big cats listed. The mountain lion is definitely more “Northwestern-y” (plays good defense, has camouflage, less flashy, real lunch pail cat), but the jaguar is an A+ predator with a really cool pelt. Would you rather watch Oklahoma State or Northwestern? I’d rather watch Oklahoma State.

Ocelots are highly overrated simply because they have a cool name. I would argue the lynx is the best wild cat because of the ears. I mean, look at those ears!

Lynxes are great.

Q. After seeing this team so far what do you put the odds of them making the tournament and projected conference record? - (@BryceMitchell11)

It’s going to be really difficult.

Let’s talk about the Oklahoma game first. With the Purdue loss last week, Northwestern needs to notch a quality win, preferably at Oklahoma on 12/22. I watched the Sooners manhandle a ranked USC team in the Staples Center on Friday night (scoreline definitely flatters USC), and Northwestern is going to have some serious issues with Trae Young and Christian James. Trae Young might be the best player in the country right now. Even if you put Law on him, you have to deal with James and Jordan Shepherd. Khadeem Lattin is also playing out of his skull right now, and I’m worried he is going to cook Dererk Pardon in the paint. That whole team is just more athletic than what Northwestern has.

For those who’ve forgetten, Lattin, Shepherd and James were all part of the core that went to the Final Four with Buddy Hield and played some of the most entertaining basketball in the country. Now they have the nation’s leading scorer, who has already proven to be Steph Curry-esque after 8 games, and more athletes filling out the roster.

What I’m saying is that Oklahoma is really frickin’ good, and it’s hard to see Northwestern getting a road win. Northwestern needs to survive Chicago State, DePaul, Lewis and Valpo just to stay in the conversation, and not all of those games are guarantees the way this team has been playing (DePaul and Valpo are better than Georgia Tech, in my opinion. Gosh, that Georgia Tech loss is so bad. SOOOOOO BAD!).

In order to make the NCAA Tournament with a loss to Oklahoma, Northwestern needs road wins in conference play. With the compressed schedule, little homecourt advantage, and no depth, that’s going to be really difficult. The game at Penn State on January 5th is a must-have. The next game at Allstate against Minnesota is a must-win. Northwestern needs to go something like 7-2 in its next 9 conference games to be on the bubble. That’s a tall order. It’s not impossible given how bad the conference is, but that’s a tall order.

After they get back in the conversation, everything depends on the Big Ten Tournament and the quality of the bubble. The late-season stretch has a few good opportunities with Wisconsin twice, Iowa and Rutgers, but Northwestern needs to bank those 9 games to have a shot. Winning those games against mediocre competition won’t help you if you’re 5-6 in the B1G. Winning a couple games in Madison Square Garden would also be helpful. To answer the question, I think 9-9 in conference is the outcome. That’s not ideal. Tournament odds? 35 percent.

Also, Wichita State vs. Oklahoma this Saturday should be appointment viewing for all college basketball fans.

Q. Best place to eat in Nashville? (@TheBoothReview3)

I have no idea what the answer to this question is. If anyone has any good answers, please leave them in the comments and I’ll see you there in Nashville.

Q. From Inside NU writer @Chris_Grismer...

No way, Big Joe and Barret Benson were separated at birth.

[For the uninitiated, the Sports staff at the Daily Northwestern and Inside NU play pickup basketball against each other. The Daily has a very tall man named Joe Wilkinson who likes to play point guard. Also, Inside NU has never won a game, although we play with a lot of heart. That’s all you need to know.]

Q. Is Pat Fitzgerald the head football coach at NU in 2045? (@WillRagatz)

Fitz will be 71 in 2045. That’s absurd. There’s no way—

(checks Bill Snyder’s age)

Bill Snyder is 78??!!?!?!

Ok, yes. Fine. For the memes and the legacy. Also, Albert Breer at Sports Illustrated ranked Fitz as the fourth-best NFL head coaching candidate under 50. He also said he’d be a good candidate to replace John Fox. While that is intriguing...I don’t see it happening. I don’t have any backing other than the fact it’s not happening. Sorry.

BUT IF IT DID HAPPEN, it would be spectacular (in the absurd dumpster fire way). For one, some Northwestern fans would somehow rationalize their way into saying it was the right move for Fitzgerald and forgive him for abandoning a 9-3 football team. Mike Hankwitz would then, probably, become the head coach for a year, but for peak hypothetical purposes let’s say Mick McCall becomes head coach. Everyone loses their minds. Northwestern then WINS THE BIG TEN WEST and beats Notre Dame in Mick McCall’s first season. Then, Inside NU closes down and rebrands itself as an Olivet Nazarene sports blog called Inside ONU.

That all being said, I don’t actually know the status of Pat Fitzgerald’s buyout. This website says he doesn’t have a buyout, but I’m not sure whether that’s with the new contract terms or from the old ones (the salary is certainly in line with the new, 2025 contract). If anyone has an answer to this, please help. He has to have some buyout, right? Northwestern can’t be trusting him to just stay forever.

Q. uh...


(As a person from the greater New York City area, rat poison is actually good.)

Q. From @TheChampaignRoom You can talk about how well your volleyball team is doing in the tourname - oh :(

There’s always next year.

Q. Will any football coach ever leave to take a better job and who would it be? (@MagicArbitRide)

(UPDATE: 8 minutes after posting, I realized I’m an idiot. But we can all relate to that.)

SERIOUS ANSWER: I could see Mike Hankwitz becoming a head coach someday. He really deserves a shot at being a head coach after 25 years of solid defensive work, and he did have two brief stints as interim head coach at Colorado and Arizona (career record 1-7). I think that a MAC or Mountain West school could come calling someday, but it would be hard to leave what he currently has. Some people just like the coordinator role.

Uh, he’s 69, sorry, thanks MountainTiger. The answer is Fitz going to the NFL, which has already been covered above.

NON-SERIOUS ANSWER: Alex Spanos, the cut-off polo man, could probably get a job as a video content producer at Barstool. Whether you take this as a compliment or not is entirely up to you.

Thanks to everyone for the questions, and make sure to join our Bowl Mania Group.