Wildcats Scratch Tournament Hopes

2009 won't be the year the Wildcats break their infamous streak

Before their game at Ohio State on March 8, Northwestern's path to the NCAA tournament was clear. Win at OSU. Win at least one game in the Big Ten tournament, but probably two. Hope, and pray. Or: Win the Big Ten tournament outright, and skip the prayer part. A loss in either scenario would basically doom the Wildcats to yet another year of NCAA tournament absence.

Four days later, the doom has officially arrived. The Wildcats have never been to the NCAA tournament, and 2009 will be no different.

Both losses -- the one to Ohio State on Sunday, and Thursday's first round loss to Minnesota -- had similar characteristics. Both times, Northwestern managed to take a lead late in the game, and both times the team wilted down the stretch. Good shots were at a premium. The offense went nowhere. And their opponents pulled away in the end.

The bright side, if there is a bright side to be culled from a half-century of losing basketball, is that the Wildcats are going to be in the postseason for the first time since 1998. They'll no doubt be invited to the NIT. Sure, the NIT is small consolation for NU fans desperate for an NCAA berth, but it is postseason basketball. That's more than the program can usually boast. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger that wishes he didn't have to hear the word "freeze" anymore. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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