Northwestern punches ticket with win at No. 7 Wisconsin

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I don’t know if Northwestern’s win on Sunday was the biggest win in the history of the program, but I cannot imagine that there has ever been one bigger.

The Wildcats went into Madison on Sunday evening and knocked off No. 7 Wisconsin, 66-59, to move to 19-6 on the season and 8-4 in the Big Ten, a record that is now impressive enough to lock Northwestern into the NCAA tournament.

That’s right.

The Wildcats are going to be dancing for the first time in program history barring catastrophe, and I’m not even sure Northwestern is capable of Northwesterning this. The way things currently stand, Northwestern has three top 50 wins and five more top 100 wins. Four of those eight top 100 wins are on the road – including at Wisconsin – and a fifth is a neutral court win over Dayton. Throw in the fact that Northwestern has just one sub-50 loss, which was to an Illinois team that looks worse on TV than it does in the RPI’s formula, and yeah, there is a lot to like about this profile.

The most impressive part of this win?

The Wildcats did it without Scottie Lindsey, their leading scorer. Lindsey had missed the previous two games, a 21-point whipping at Purdue and the loss to Illinois at home earlier this week.

There is a downside to this for the Big Ten, however.

The conference didn’t get a single team into the top 16 when the Selection Committee previewed the bracket over the weekend. No Wisconsin, no Purdue, no Maryland, and that was before the Badgers took this loss at home.

In fact, I’d go as far as to day that it is time to start being worried about Wisconsin. The Badgers were taken to overtime by Nebraska earlier this week, a week after they were taken to overtime by Rutgers and struggled to put away a struggling Indiana team at home.

Wins are wins in conference play, I get that, but when you consistently struggle to beat teams you should walk over, it’s not a great sign moving forward, especially when you consider this: Wisconsin’s best win this season is … at Indiana? At Minnesota or Marquette? Over Georgetown or Tennessee in Maui? Syracuse when Syracuse was still a disaster?

That’s a problem, one that could end up causing the Badgers to get a seed much closer to last year’s No. 7 seed than you would expect for the No. 7 team in the AP poll.