A chance at a big win escapes Northwestern again

ANN ARBOR, MI - JANUARY 29: Northwestern Wildcats forward Vic Law (4) tries to drive along the baseline with Michigan Wolverines guard Jordan Poole (2) guarding him during the Michigan Wolverines game versus the Northwestern Wildcats on Monday January 29, 2018 at Crisler Center Field in Ann Arbor, MI. (Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A year ago, it seemed as if the stars were aligned for them to make some program history. Twelve months later, that simply doesn’t appear to be the case.

Monday was another example of why, at the moment, another NCAA Tournament appearance may seem like a reach for a Wildcats team that is struggling to find consistency or a major victory during the 2017-2018 season.

Against 24th-ranked Michigan, a chance at a win that would look good on a postseason resume, Northwestern started out looking like the team of last year. While their offense wasn’t exactly on fire, the Wildcats were able to grab a seven-point lead on a dunk by Scottie Lindsey gave the Wildcats an eight-point lead.

Breakthrough? Not quite.

Michigan finished the low-scoring half on a 10-0 run in the final 7:06. They’d outscore the Wildcats by nine in the second half and win it 58-47. So much for a two-game winning streak for Northwestern as they fall to 4-6 in the Big Ten.

Without a win over a ranked opponent yet this season and with a pedestrian 13-10 record in the conference, getting to the Big Dance for a second-straight year is going to take a heck of a finish for the Wildcats. Of their next eight games only two are against ranked opponents – the return game against 24th-ranked Michigan on February 6th and the visit of No. 5 Michigan State to Allstate Arena on February 17th.

The rest of the games are against a number of middle-of-the-pack teams in what has been a very average Big Ten Conference this season. Even if Northwestern were to win out, which would give them a 21-10 overall record, they might still have some work to do in the conference tournament in Madison Square Garden in March.

Still making that all happen is going to require some late season magic, maybe even more than they had a year ago.