Ricky: As you may have heard, the Northwestern Wildcats have never made the NCAA Tournament. This in itself would be enough to make them the Chicago Cubs of college basketball, but there's one big difference: the Cubs could go 200, 300 years without winning the World Series, and they would still be the Story of the Summer, every summer. The Cubs are beloved. No one cares about Northwestern basketball.
Making the Tournament could change that, though, at least momentarily. This is an awfully slow time of year in Chicago sports. The Bulls are just trying to get healthy before the playoffs. Even during at the start of spring training when optimism is said to be eternal, the Cubs and Sox are hard to get excited about. Neither is even expected to *contend* for a playoff spot, much less secure one.
So: with March Madness on the brink, the Wildcats have an opportunity here. They have two games left in the regular season -- tonight vs. No. 11 Ohio State and Saturday vs. Bobby's Iowa Hawkeyes. Assuming they fall to OSU and top Iowa, they'll probably need only a victory or two in the Big 10 Tournament to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, they sit at 17-11 overall, and USA Today has them as one of the last four teams in the field of 68.
My question to you guys: if Northwestern does the impossible and crashes March Madness, what will be your stance? Will you root for them? Will you be typically apathetic? Will you just keep staring at that creepy Jeff Samardzija photo? I forcefully ask for answers.
Bobby: Ricky, you ask a good question, and it's got a long answer.
Even though I find myself rooting against Northwestern football and basketball on a somewhat regular basis, I'd probably put both into my arbitrary Top 10 favorite college teams. After all, NW is the closest Big Ten school to where we grew up, they aren't insufferable or anything, and, ultimately, they're pretty harmless. Shit, what did they ever do to you? Nothing, that's what. If football or hoops made the national title in a sport, there are less than eight schools I'd root for over them. Therefore: Top 10.
Well, sort of. I'm not a huge Pat Fitzgerald fan (blah to "rah! rah!" I say -- dude seems kinda prickish), and it's never a party to watch their basketball team, either. I hadn't watched them play in years, and I was happy to see their best player, as always, is a 6-7 white guy with a goofy face. And may I interest you in bullshit 3s? The more things change...
Another thing: this "Northwestern not making the tournament" thing is turning into the Ron Santo Hall Of Fame Pity Party 2.0. And you know why? Everyone in the media graduated from Northwestern because the J-school there is so god damned good. Darren Rovell, Michael Wilbon, J.A. Adande, and Dan Shanoff are all alums -- and that's just off the top of my head. Surely there are at least 5,000 more. Because of this, I feel a disproportionate amount of chagrin from these people every time the 'Cats fail to make the tournament. Because of this, I find myself rampantly rooting against them to do so. I feel like if all of my teams winning titles would make up a Top 10 sports goals list, the Wildcats missing the tournament would be on some sort of bizarro anti-Top 10 sports goals list. I never want to see them make the tournament. The streak is just too fun. The are the only BCS team to never go -- so pathetic!
Having said that, if they ended up making it, I really feel like I'd 180 and just start rooting for them. You legitimately make the dance? Then go get 'em, boys! They'd probably deserve the support. ... Man, I'm a weird hypocrite. Just don't call me a bandwagon fan. People with Rose Bowl sweatshirts from the 90s loss to USC know what I'm talking about. Man, that was a joke. I'd be casual at best, I swear. If my alma mater and real favorite team Iowa lets us down in the coming days, I apologize to everyone in advance.
So yeah, I think my short term goal is to have them not make the tournament until it expands to 96 or 200 or whatever they are kicking around. Then, if they do, it'll mean way less than it did before.
As for this year? Death to y'all, Purple.
Zach: Today I learned that dragons are real. Little, tiny, miniature dragons* are of this reality. This could simply be an Internet hoax; a play on my gullibility and desire for unimaginable (and magical) other-lings. Regardless, I'm going to choose to believe in our diminutive flying amigos. In this same sense of mysticism and childhood irreverence, I'm also choosing to believe in NDubs and will totally root for them at a modest and respectable level (assuming they make the Big Dance). I will not turn it up to 11, but eight? Perhaps.
*It is taking everything I have in my soul not to mention the hot chick who gets naked all the time in "Game of Thrones" (she's part dragon, you see).