For the first time this season, Northwestern is more likely to make the NCAA Tournament than miss it, according to teamrankings.com. After Sunday’s 89-54 win against Iowa, the sports data website pegs the Wildcats’ chances for a bid at 55.9%.
To be clear, Northwestern is still a bubble team, and there is plenty of basketball left to play. The Catch and Shoot currently has the Wildcats as a No. 7 seed while the Bracket Matrix, an aggregation of all bracket projections, sees them as a No. 9.
(Northwestern also holds 225:1 odds to win the national title, according to Vegas Insider. Those are the 36th best odds in the nation, putting the Wildcats right behind Wichita State and tied with Seton Hall and South Carolina.)
Northwestern has a very clean postseason resume. The Wildcats have not defeated any of the elite teams they have played, but wins against Wake Forest and Dayton are better than they may appear. Both are in the RPI top 30.
Road victories against Nebraska and Penn State have also proved to be respectable so far, as Nebraska is No. 45 in RPI and Penn State is No. 61.
Northwestern also has no losses outside the top 50, and only one outside the top 20. The Wildcats’ strength of schedule sits just inside the top 100, and their 5-3 road/neutral record won’t turn any heads but could provide a nice boost.
What’s alarming for the Wildcats is they have few, if any, big-game opportunities left due to the Big Ten’s weakness this year. They have one two remaining RPI top 30 opponent: Maryland.
That’s why losing close games to Butler, Notre Dame and Minnesota (all of which are in the RPI top 20) could prove costly by March. If Northwestern slips up against Rutgers or even a team like Ohio State or Indiana, that could be enough to put the team in a perilous position with a handful of solid wins but no great wins.