Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Flashback: Comparing the Big Wins

Was beating MSU the basketball equivalent of beating Notre Dame? (AP Photo)

Dave Eanet called Northwestern’s win over Michigan State the basketball equivalent of the September 2, 1995 football upset over Notre Dame. For today’s edition of Friday Flashback I want to compare the two.

September 2, 1995

Opponent: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Opponent Rank: #9

Vegas Line: Irish by 28

NU Star: Darnell Autry 35 carried 160 yards

NU Supporting Star: Steve Schnur 166 yards 2 TDs

Play of the Game: Schnur to D’Wayne Bates 26-yard TD

Why it Matters:
The win started NU’s remarkable run to the Rose Bowl.

January 21, 2009

Opponent: Michigan State Spartans

Opponent Rank: #7

Vegas Line: Spartans by 13

NU Star: Kevin Coble 31 points

NU Supporting Star: Michael "Juice" Thompson 20 points

Play of the Game: Kevin Coble banks a fade away shot high of the glass to give NU a 62-55 lead

Why it Matters: First win in East Lansing in 25 years. First win on the road vs a top ten team since 1953.

So which win is bigger? At this point I don’t think any question exists that beating Notre Dame to start NU’s Rose Bowl season is the bigger win. At least so far. However, if this year’s hoops squad makes a run to the NCAA tournament the win over Michigan State could turn into the bigger win. I honestly believe when Northwestern makes the NCAA tournament for the first time it will be as big or even a bigger story than the Rose Bowl. After all, the NCAA tournament is almost a national holiday for the United States. Seemingly everybody tunes in to the games and participates in office pools. While bowl games are big, they don’t garner the same attention as the NCAA tournament. Perhaps that’s because so many bowls don’t seem to have as much significance as every NCAA game. If Northwestern were to make the NCAA Tournament and advance, Bill Carmody and his players could become national darlings in the mold of Stephen Curry and Bryce Drew. Will it happen? A lot of work remains to be done, but it is possible. Northwestern is ranked in the high 30s in the RPI and will probably end up with a top ten strength of schedule. When you combine these two factors, it gives Northwestern a good chance to make the tournament as a 7-10 seed if they can win around 19 or 20 games and advance at least a couple rounds in the Big Ten tournament. Saturday’s game against Michigan is a key game as is next Saturday’s at home against Wisconsin.

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