Northwestern Men’s Team Making Second NCAA March Madness Appearance

Written By Matt Boecker on March 16, 2023
Northwestern Wildcats men's basketball

The Northwestern Wildcats men’s basketball earned a spot in the 2023 NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history.

Bettors can find action on the Wildcats at licensed Illinois sportsbooks, but they must do so in person. Illinois regulations don’t allow betting on in-state colleges through online sportsbooks. But if you visit one of Illinois’ 11 retail sportsbooks, you can wager on, or against, the Wildcats.

Considering Northwestern has only qualified for March Madness once before this season, let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how that season played out.

Northwestern’s memorable first NCAA Tournament win

In the 2017 NCAA Tournament, it was #8 Northwestern vs. #9 Vanderbilt Commodores. It was a back-and-forth game from start to finish, and the ending was a thriller.

With 17.8 seconds remaining, the Commodores hit a layup to take a one point lead, 66-65. Then, Vanderbilt guard Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably fouled Northwestern forward Bryant McIntosh following the inbound.

Fisher-Davis later told reporters he saw Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew pointing at McIntosh as he brought the ball up the court. Fisher-Davis was confused, thinking the Commodores trailed by one and thought his coach was pointing at McIntosh to signal he should be fouled to stop the clock.

McIntosh went to the line and sank both free throws, putting the Wildcats on top 67-66. The Commodores got the ball back and heaved a three-pointer that missed, ending their March Madness dreams.

The Wildcats sank one more free throw before the final whistle, securing a 68-66 victory.

Northwestern’s star of the game was McIntosh, who dropped a game-high 25 points; including the clutch free throws to get the win. McIntosh also added four rebounds, three assists and two steals.

In round two, the Wildcats were the ones suffering from heartbreak following a 79-73 defeat to #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Can the 2023 Northwestern Wildcats make a run?

This year’s Wildcats squad has a great shot at making a deep run this March. Northwestern faced a tough Big Ten schedule and the conference sent eight total teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Northwestern went 21-11 in the regular season. Some of their top wins came against: Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Iowa.

Against quad 1 schools, the Wildcats went 7-6. When facing quad 2 teams, they posted a 4-5 record. Regardless of the records against the nation’s top teams, facing a difficult schedule is a great way to prepare for whatever March Madness throws at you.

The Cats are led by guard Boo Buie, who averages 17.1 points, 4.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. They’ve also got an excellent rim defender in 7-footer Matthew Nicholson who averages 1.3 blocks per game.

The man overseeing it all is head coach Chris Collins, who has been with the school since 2013. This Wildcat team’s .667 win percentage is tied for the highest during Collins tenure in Evanston.

Photo by Rebecca S. Gratz / AP Photo
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Matt Boecker

Matt Boecker is a 2020 graduate of Northern Illinois University hailing from Chicago. Boecker specializes in coverage of sports betting and legalization. Former teammates and coworkers describe him as a nice guy who tries hard and loves the game.

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