After more than 100 years of basketball, Northwestern finally made it. Led by Vic Law and a group of believers in coach Chris Collins' vision, the Wildcats are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance Thursday.
The student-athletes from Northwestern (23-11) are seeded eighth and their counterparts from Vanderbilt (19-15) are ninth. Just as importantly, in this case: On the US News and World Report list of top national universities, Northwestern ranks 12th and Vanderbilt 15th.
"I wanted to have guys who wanted to be great basketball players and great students," Wildcats coach Chris Collins said, in a way of explaining a turnaround that has taken the Wildcats to the NCAAs for the first time in 100-plus years of basketball. "To me, there's no reason — why can't you have both?"
At Northwestern, they're celebrating a first-of-its-kind accomplishment — embarking on a trip to the NCAA Tournament that has eluded a school known for books, not basketball.
"We're not just doing this for ourselves and for our team. We're doing it for everyone that also has something to do with it." Said fifth-year senior Sanjay Lumpkin on Northwestern's run to the tournament.
The City of Evanston will host four public watch parties for the historic game, which tips off at 3:30 p.m.:
- Chandler-Newberger Center, 1028 Central St.
- Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 1655 Foster St.
- Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave.
- Robert Crown Center, 1701 Main St.
If Northwestern wins, they will face the winner of Gonzaga and South Dakota State in the "Sweet 16" second-round showdown on Saturday.