Northwestern Fans Shouldn’t Give Up Yet

WNUR’s Michael Stern (@MichaelJStern23) previews Northwestern’s opponent- the Nebraska Cornhuskers- by explaining how a team in a similar spot as both the ‘Cats and the Huskers made the NCAA tournament.

It’s a tough time for fans of Northwestern and Nebraska basketball. The ‘Huskers reignited their NCAA tournament hopes with a five-game conference winning streak that included road victories over Northwestern and Michigan State, but the team’s 60-49 loss Wednesday night at Illinois severely damaged their tournament hopes. Similarly, Northwestern shook off a tough start to Big Ten play and won five of seven in late January. The streak included two wins over ranked teams and three road wins. However, the ‘Cats have not won since February 1, and the team’s current five-game losing streak has taken them out of the NCAA tournament conversation. Despite recent tough losses, a trip to the big dance is still possible for both the ‘Huskers and the ‘Cats. Just ask the 2007-2008 Georgia Bulldogs.

Georgia entered SEC play that season with a record of 9-4, but suffered embarrassing non-conference losses to East Tennessee State and Tulane. Things really got ugly during the league season, when the Bulldogs finished 4-12, endured a pair of five-game losing streaks, and went 1-7 in road conference games. Then came the SEC tournament, and when the dust settled at the Georgia Dome, the Bulldogs were going dancing with the automatic berth awarded to the SEC tournament champion.

In the first round, Georgia faced Mississippi. The Rebels beat Georgia 76-62 in the teams’ regular-season finale, but the Bulldogs played much better in the rematch. After squandering a three-point lead by fouling a shooter beyond the arc at the end of regulation, the Bulldogs led 95-92 with ten seconds left in overtime. Georgia fouled Ole Miss’ Chris Warren shooting a triple, and Warren made all three foul shots to tie the game at 95. Despite letting the Rebels tie the game with three foul shots TWICE, the Bulldogs advanced to the SEC quarterfinals on a Dave Bliss jumper with two seconds to play.

Georgia was scheduled to play the next night against Kentucky, but a thunderstorm burst a hole in the Georgia Dome ceiling, moving the Bulldogs’ quarterfinal to Saturday morning on the campus of Georgia Tech. Despite losing to the Wildcats twice during the regular season, Georgia forced overtime against Kentucky, took the lead with one second left in the extra session on a three-pointer by Zac Swansey, and held on to advance to the semifinals 60-56.

In the semifinals later that day, Georgia faced top seed Mississippi State. Georgia lost to Mississippi State during the regular season, but hung tough for 38 minutes, took the lead on a jumper by Billy Humphrey with a minute and a half to go, and held on for a 64-60 win over Mississippi State.

Georgia earned a trip to the 2008 NCAA tournament with a run that won the SEC Tournament. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

Georgia earned a trip to the 2008 NCAA tournament with a run that won the SEC Tournament. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America)

Georgia faced Arkansas in the finals. The Razorbacks took out top seed Tennessee 92-91 in the semifinals, but lost to Georgia by 13 during the regular-season. This game wasn’t much of a contest, as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 30-11 lead and held off a ferocious Razorback rally to win the SEC championship, 66-57.

Georgia finished the 2007-2008 regular season three games under .500 and seeded 12th in the SEC tournament, but the Bulldogs played great basketball for one weekend and advanced into March Madness.

Is it likely that either the Cornhuskers or the Wildcats replicate the magical run of the 2007-2008 Georgia Bulldogs in two weeks in Indianapolis? No.

But is it possible? Judging by the 2008 SEC Tournament, absolutely.

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