Cinderella’s Wearing Purple For 2017
January 30, 2017 by Jean Neuberger • Print Story •
Most years, we wait to see who is college basketball's Cinderella story.
Sometimes, a Florida Gulf Coast comes along early to claim the title. Other times, you have a Butler, who slowly builds it case until it's in the title game.
This year, we don't have to wait for March. Cinderella has arrived and she's wearing purple.
Northwestern purple, that is.
No matter what, even in a first round exit, Northwestern is America's Cinderella story of 2017.
Most people would never think a Power Five conference school would ever wear that title. However, this is a case unlike any other. Northwestern, for decades, has been the definition of futility. The Wildcats are the only Power Five team that's never made it to the Big Dance. Northwestern hasn't had a winning record in Big Ten play since 1968. Since 1969-70, the Wildcats have fared no better than seventh in the Big Ten.
Now, Northwestern is 18-4, 7-2 in the Big Ten. The Wildcats are living a dream season and it's time for America to take notice.
It starts with the play of junior guard Scottie Lindsey. Lindsey took the leadership role and so far has run with it, stepping up his play this season. He currently averages over 15 points a game, but also has doubled his rebounding average as well. Lindsey is joined in the backcourt by Bryant McIntosh, a 6-3 guard who sees the floor beautifully, averaging a solid 5.6 assists a game. The Wildcats are led inside by Vic Law, a 6-7 forward who plays bigger on the court than his 6-7 frame. The guy to watch in the paint? Sanjay Lumpkin, who as a guard doesn't score a lot of points but attacks the glass with reckless abandon. He has to, as the Wildcats for the most part lack size on the floor.
Northwestern wins with disciplined speed; seeming to control the game despite what the score says. It's the brainchild of Chris Collins, who should be a serious contender for AP Coach of the Year and who should win it if the Wildcats somehow win the conference. Collins has the coaching lineage, being the son of former NBA coach Doug Collins and having played under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, who later hired him as an assistant for the Blue Devils. He's quietly built this team similar to the teams he played for and coached at Duke: well-disciplined, aggressive, but very controlled in what they're doing. It's a well-oiled machine that has shaken up the Midwest.
Sure, the Wildcats still have the month of February to go, with Maryland, Wisconsin and two showdowns with Purdue still on the slate. However, the Wildcats so far haven't had too bad a loss ... when Michigan State is a candidate for your worst loss, you're not exactly struggling on your tournament resume. The Wildcats don't look like a team just trying to make the Big Dance anymore. They're trying to bring a Big Ten title home, something that's never been close to realistic until now.
The wait is coming to a close. Cinderella will don purple. And Chicago will be glued in March, seeing just how long the first dance will last.
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