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Inside NU’s top stories of 2020

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There was a lot of sadness but also a ton of Wildcat athletic success.

Paul Sullivan: Northwestern took the bait, and now the 5-0 Wildcats must keep proving ESPN’s Joey Galloway wrong John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

2020 was a tumultuous year for just about everyone, including Inside NU. There was good news, there was bad news, there was no news and then there was lots of news. We tried to capture the craziness that was the year of college sports, and change the pace when there was none. Here are some of our favorite pieces from 2020.

January

Film Room: The Brilliance of the Blizzard

The beginning of the year was all about Joe McKeown’s team and its lockdown Blizzard defense that allowed the Wildcats to climb into the top 25.

Veronica Burton, Abi Scheid lead true team effort to take Northwestern to the next level

Northwestern women’s basketball earned arguably their best win of the season on the road against 15th-ranked Indiana behind standout nights from Veronica Burton and Abi Scheid.

February

Op-Ed: The case for placing Chris Collins on the hot seat

While Chris Collins has newfound job security since his team’s hot start this season, the Wildcats’ 3-17 record in conference play last season led many to question his role in the future.

Michigan’s return to Welsh-Ryan stirs up memories, highlights an uncertain future

A rematch with the Wolverines meant it was time to reminisce.

BIG TEN CHAMPS: Northwestern dispatches Illinois to capture first conference crown since 1990

The women’s basketball team made history in its 2019-2020 season and capped it off with a dominant win over rival Illinois to take home the regular-season Big Ten crown.

A special team, a special season, and the Big Ten Championship a year-plus in the making

From the WNIT to Big Ten Champions, Joe McKeown’s team has accomplished it all.

March

A haiku for every Northwestern men’s basketball game this year

This is what an 8-23 season deserves.

How the Northwestern women put together the best basketball season in NU history

We were not going to let the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament overshadow how special a season Joe McKeown’s team had.

April

Goodbye from the editor-in-chief: Reflecting on a wild year

April brought a changing of the guards as Noah Coffman bid farewell and reflected on his time as EIC.

Q&A: Abi Scheid talks upcoming WNBA Draft

The sharpshooter didn’t end up getting drafted, but she provided some great color on how she spent the early months of the pandemic at home and her hopes for the future.

Camaraderie and confidence through haircuts: Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman’s drive as team barber, plus his tips for cutting hair at home

Do you remember wondering in the spring when you’d get that first haircut after shops re-opened? The talented RCB talked to Inside NU about his path to becoming the team barber, the relationships he’s formed while cutting teammates’ hair and how to cut one’s hair at home.

Former Northwestern swimmer Jordan Wilimovsky’s quest for Olympic glory on hold

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed due to COVID, former Northwestern athletes including star swimmer Jordan Wilimovsky coped with the career-altering news in hopes of competing on the world’s biggest stage in 2021.

Choosing the greatest Northwestern athlete of all time: Round of 64

One of the highlights of quarantine for us at Inside NU was Colin Kruse’s bracket to choose the greatest Northwestern athlete of all time. Over 74,000 people voted in the championship alone, as field hockey star Gretchen Scheuermann edged out tennis legend Katrina Adams to take the title.

May

FILM ROOM: How good is Peyton Ramsey?

This analysis turned out to be pretty accurate! After a horrific season under center for Northwestern, it looked like even early on that Ramsey could steer the ‘Cats back to normalcy.

Nothing into Something: The Burton Family Story

Dan Olinger interviewed just about the entire First Family of Northwestern Athletics to learn how they came to be a Wildcat family.

An ode to the 1976-81 Northwestern Wildcats — the ultimate underdogs

For a program defined by its underdog nature year after year, we took a look back at the late 70s and early 80s when the Wildcats established themselves as the ultimate underdogs, posting a 3-62-1 record in the period.

Northwestern (sports) places I’ve cried

2020 was a tough year for all of us, so Claire Kuwana reminded us that sometimes you just need a good cry — even if it’s on Northwestern’s campus.

June

Stronger Together: Wildcats battle in the face of a global pandemic

With quarantine in full swing, Wildcats at all stages from high school recruits to professional players coped with the pandemic in hopes of getting back to playing the game they love.

Q&A: Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy dishes on COVID-19, fall football and diversity through sports

Claire Kuwana caught up with the former Northwestern athletic director and current NFL executive, who didn’t mince words about this time in history.

Film Room: Why defending the pick-and-roll was a problem for the ‘Cats

It was a film room. Dan wrote it. You’ll probably learn something!

July

Reimagining college conferences: Northwestern’s hypothetical 2020 season

In one of the more chaotic articles we’ve written all year, the Inside NU editors dove deep into hypotheticals for how reimagining conferences could allow for a safer college football season in a pandemic-ridden country.

FILM ROOM: What does a Mike Bajakian offense look like?

Under a new offensive coordinator, the Wildcat offense showed the most improvement from 2019 to 2020.

A gridiron legacy uncovered: How Northwestern football players risked it all for racial equality

As professional and college athletes nationwide took a stand for racial equality, particularly following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery as well as countless other black individuals, Lia Assimakopoulos told the story of how Northwestern football players in the 1980s combatted racial injustice within their own football program.

August

Before the season is canceled, the players want to save it. Can they?

August brought the craziest month of the year for college sports as the Big Ten season was abruptly postponed (for a month!) despite a last-ditch effort from the players to keep it alive.

Big Ten right to postpone, but failed its players in the process

Following the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall sports, Eli Karp wrote how the conference’s indecision came at the expense of the players.

On college athletics, community and campus life without sports

Amidst the darkest of times for Big Ten sports, Lia Assimakopoulos shared her emotional response to the pandemic’s impact on college sports.

Northwestern winter sport athletes react to postponement of fall sports, look ahead to their own seasons

For so much of the summer, the emphasis was on how COVID would impact football and other fall sports, but the winter athletes had fears of their own.

September

Evanston businesses face hardships without football but vow to push on

Football’s cancelation hit many more people than just those within the program. Local Evanston businesses had to face the consequences worse than most, Colin Kruse wrote.

For Northwestern’s players, the return of Big Ten football was the miracle they were hoping for

A draining month of uncertainty ended in the players getting their season back, and that’s all that matters.

Northwestern football parents share their thoughts on the Big Ten’s cancelation and return to play

William Karmin spoke with the football players’ parents who certainly had thoughts of their own on the Big Ten’s decision-making.

October

During a pandemic, promoting safety while optimizing performance is a balancing act

Eli Karp talked to Director of Football Operations Cody Cejda about the important safety precautions and protocols put in place by Northwestern football before the season kicked off. Clearly, they worked, as the program recorded just two positive COVID-19 cases from the end of September through New Year’s Day.

Resilience and experience: TJ Green returns for a sixth season

One of the most unique storylines of the season was how quarterback TJ Green returned from injury to play his sixth season in purple and white. Claire Kuwana told his story of resilience and determination.

Catching up with Vic Law on his experience in the NBA Bubble

Colin Kruse chatted with former Northwestern basketball star Vic Law about his unique experience playing in the NBA bubble in with the Orlando Magic.

A listener and a teacher: How Pat Fitzgerald found success at Northwestern as he goes for his 100th career win

In one of the best seasons of his coaching career, Pat Fitzgerald kicked off 2020 by earning his 100th career win as his current and former players and fellow coaches reflected on his incredible run at his alma mater.

Peter Skoronski’s early success headlines a group ready to ascend the Big Ten’s ranks

After Rashawn Slater opted out of the season and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, true freshman Peter Skoronski was given huge shoes to fill but performed admirably.

November

Measuring stick looms as Northwestern’s receivers look to take the next step

The Wildcat receiving corps anchored by seniors Kyric McGowan, Riley Lees and Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman took major strides in 2020.

Northwestern’s secret weapon Joe Spivak is getting it done on both sides of the ball

The entertaining senior proved to be the epitome of “bring your own juice” this season.

Northwestern has its shot at a moment Saturday

Against division rival Wisconsin, Northwestern had a chance to reach new heights. Before the ‘Cats became the Fighting Rece Davises, there was what all NU fans were feeling.

Northwestern shows that in the Big Ten West, defense still reigns supreme

When the offense faltered, Mike Hankwitz’s defense was unflappable, leading NU to its historic season.

Peyton Ramsey: A quarterback on the field and in the classroom

The addition of graduate transfer Peyton Ramsey was instrumental to Northwestern’s success as the seasoned veteran led the Wildcats both on and off the field, proving to be a class act time and time again.

FILM ROOM: Five things to know about point guard Ty Berry

With basketball season on the horizon, Daniel Olinger previewed true freshman guard Ty Berry before he took the court at Welsh-Ryan for the first time.

December

Cardiac Stats and ‘Cats: An analysis of the nickname and its accuracy

We all know the nickname, but Jack Izzo supplied the deepest of dives into its origins and credibility.

Never satisfied: How a change in mindset turned Northwestern’s secondary from respectable to one of the nation’s best

With two All-Americans anchoring the unit, Matt MacPherson’s secondary took monumental strides after committing to change.

With its second division title in three years, Northwestern puts the Big Ten West on notice

The ‘Cats proved that 2019 was a fluke by earning their second trip to Indy in three years.

Why beating Ohio State would cement Pat Fitzgerald as one of the greatest coaches of all-time

Pat Fitzgerald has already accomplished incredible feats in his time in Evanston, but beating the Buckeyes remains a mountain he has yet to climb.

Mike Hankwitz dynamic as ever as he looks to earn 400th win before retirement

Northwestern’s timeless defensive coordinator coached the final game of his 51-year career and earned his 400th win in the process.

Northwestern proved it belongs but vows to continue fighting

In a valiant effort against the National Championship-bound Buckeyes, the Wildcats proved themselves as a national contender but are still far from satisfied.

Dominant upset upends expectations for Northwestern men’s basketball

The men’s basketball team is off to its best Big Ten start in decades, which all began with a dominant win over No. 4 Michigan State that redefined expectations for what this team can accomplish.

Wherever Paddy Fisher has gone, Northwestern has followed

We wrapped up 2020 by taking a look back at Paddy Fisher’s incredible career, as he likely played his final collegiate game in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.