NCAA Tournament: Northwestern’s magical season creates hope for bright future

0 Comments

By Netta-Lee Lax

“Hail to purple! Hail to white! Hail to thee Northwestern.” – The Northwestern Alma Mater

Northwestern football head coach Pat Fitzgerald waited by the tunnel for his basketball counterpart, Chris Collins, to leave the court after a dramatic loss to No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But as he extended his arm to let me pass by, he smiled at me.

In that moment, it felt like he was waiting for me. In that moment I could not hide my allegiance. In that moment as the Northwestern band played the alma mater, I was a Wildcat through and through and so was Fitz, as he’s known by the NU faithful. In that moment, it took a lot of will power not to just hug Fitz and let all of the pent up emotions of the past week out.

The very first story I covered as a student was an attempt by Northwestern’s athletic department to legitimize its men’s basketball program. In 2010, Northwestern hosted its inaugural, and only, Friday Night Hoops open practice at the student gymnasium known as SPAC. That night they held a make-shift dunk contest won by senior Mike Capocci, who barely made the rotation that season. The staff had not let future pros Drew Crawford or John Shurna partake, worried they might injure its best players. A few hours later, Snoop Dogg played a concert with the whole men’s basketball team on stage at the now “old” Welsh-Ryan Arena. Northwestern was trying to mimic programs like Duke, which fills Cameron Indoor when it holds open practices.

Instead, Northwestern emerged looking more like the knock-off barbie dolls at the dollar store with uneven eyes and immobile arms. It was not until last Sunday when Northwestern’s name was physically displayed on the bracket during the selection show that it sunk in that Northwestern now really has a legitimate men’s basketball program.

Over the past seven years as I’ve covered and followed Northwestern basketball, emotion has never been lacking.

When Michael “Juice” Thompson set a scoring record in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament, I could not comprehend a better feeling surrounding the team. The next season when the team collapsed in the same tournament and I entered their somber locker room, I thought the look on former walk-on Reggie Hearn’s face was the lowest I would ever see the team sink. Then this season happened. I was hesitant to buy in, worried that my masochistic basketball tendencies would drive me crazy.

But this was not the Northwestern I had come to know. This was not the Northwestern I had come to love and despise all at once. As Chris Collins noted in a press conference earlier this week, Northwestern fans were not sure how to handle this team.

“Is this the Northwestern we are used to seeing?” senior  Sanjay Lumpkin said, summing it up best. “This has been a magical season.”

It did not sink in that this was real. It did not sink for me until this morning when ESPN’s Mike Greenberg addressed a group of Northwestern alumni at a pep-rally.  As he pointed out that Northwestern was just one of six schools to win a bowl game and make it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. It finally hit me. Northwestern is a legitimate Big Ten athletic school.

This week has been filled with a mix of deep grounding breaths, like the look senior Nate Taphorn had on his face when Northwestern went down 28-12 with just under four minutes left in the first half. It maybe began to sink in that this was his last game as a Wildcat when he crouched down along the sideline cheering on his team as they clawed their way back into the game against Gonzaga late in the second half.

This week has been filled with bizarre moments and strange calls. From the intentional foul by Vanderbilt’s Matthew Fisher-Davis when his team was up by one late in the game to the missed goal-tending call that led to a technical on Collins, there was rarely a dull moment.

At times during Saturday’s game against Gonzaga, there was a dreaded sense of familiarity as Northwestern played isolation offense and chucked up contested runners in the lane. But for the most part there was a newness that left most Northwestern fans, clad from head to toe in purple garb, looking at each other and saying, “Wow. This is awesome.”

Chris Collins’ motto is “Pound the Rock.” It comes from the writing of journalist Jacob Riis, who exposed the hardships of tenement life. The passage reads:

When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

After Northwestern’s season-ending loss, redshirt sophomore Vic Law declared, “This is just the building block…this is just the beginning.”

The rock has just begun to show cracks, but it has not yet split. Next year the majority of Northwestern’s players will return to Evanston. The Wildcats will play away from campus as their home arena is renovated. Next year, as Collins explained, Northwestern will be “a different team.” But for Northwestern fans, for the students, for the alumni, for the staff and certainly for the players, this season will always stand alone. This team will forever be the first.

“We made history in a way that has never been done at this university, “ explained Law. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget this for the rest of my life.”

Lumpkin told me after the win against Vanderbilt, “This is why we came here.” Lumpkin was referring to himself and his teammates, both past and present, and their drive to make it to the big dance, but in a way it was also true for the Northwestern fans.

Moments like this are why we are sports fans. Moments like this are why we put ourselves through the pain of watching a team we’ve invested so much energy and emotion in fall apart. Moments like this are what we come for.

So tomorrow I will watch the video of Fitzgerald running into the locker room of a victorious Northwestern men’s basketball team again, and I will think of the elation and the pride. I will think of my alma mater and what it stands for. I will remember why I continue to call myself a Wildcat.

Alma mater, praise be thine, may thy name forever shine.” – Northwestern Alma Mater

2022-2023 Atlantic 10 Basketball Schedule: How to watch men’s and women’s games on USA Network and NBC Sports

Atlantic 10 basketball is coming to NBC Sports this 2022-2023 season! Here's how to watch!
Getty Images
0 Comments

Atlantic 10 basketball is headed to NBC Sports! During the 2022-2023 season, 35 exciting matchups will be featured on USA Network and NBC Sports digital platforms, including exclusive coverage of the 2023 Atlantic 10 Men’s Championship second round and quarterfinals, 26 men’s regular-season matchups, and three women’s regular-season games.

The action tips off on Saturday, December 10 on USA Network as the Drexel Dragons head to Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to take on the La Salle Explorers at 12:00 p.m. ET. Immediately after, the Dayton Flyers will face the UNC Asheville Bulldogs at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio at 2:00  p.m. ET.

All coverage on USA Network streams live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. See below for the 2022-2023 Atlantic 10 men’s and women’s basketball schedules as well as additional information on how to watch/live stream each game.

RELATED: How to watch 2022 Notre Dame Hockey on Peacock – Schedule, live stream info, and more

2022-2023 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Schedule:

*All times are listed as ET

DATE GAME NETWORK/PLATFORM TIME (ET)
Saturday, Dec. 10 Drexel at La Salle USA Network Noon
Saturday, Dec. 10 UNC Asheville at Dayton USA Network 2 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 7 Davidson at VCU USA Network Noon
Saturday, Jan. 7 UMass at George Washington USA Network 2 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 14 Loyola Chicago at Saint Joseph’s USA Network 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 14 Richmond at St. Bonaventure USA Network 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 17 UMass at VCU NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 21 Dayton at George Washington USA Network 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 21 La Salle at Saint Louis USA Network 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 29 Saint Joseph’s at George Mason USA Network Noon
Saturday, Feb. 4 Davidson at UMass USA Network 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 4 George Mason at Loyola Chicago USA Network 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 5 Fordham at Richmond USA Network Noon
Saturday, Feb. 11 St. Bonaventure at Duquesne USA Network 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 11 Fordham at Davidson USA Network 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 18 Saint Joseph’s at Davidson USA Network 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 18 Fordham at VCU USA Network 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 19 George Washington at St. Bonaventure USA Network 2 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 22 St. Bonaventure at Davidson NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 25 Rhode Island at Fordham USA Network 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 26 Saint Joseph’s at St. Bonaventure USA Network Noon
Sunday, Feb. 26 Davidson at Duquesne USA Network 2 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 28 La Salle at Dayton NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 George Mason at Richmond USA Network 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 St. Bonaventure at UMass USA Network 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 VCU at George Washington USA Network 4:30 p.m.

How to watch the 2022-2023 Atlantic 10 Men’s Championship on USA Network:

DATE GAME TIME (ET)
Wednesday, March 8 A-10 Championship Second Round Noon, 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 9 A-10 Championship Quarterfinals Noon, 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 8:30 p.m.

How to watch 2022-2023 Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball on NBC Sports:

  • Wednesday, January 25 – George Washington at Loyola Chicago at 12:00 p.m. ET
  • Thursday, January 26 – VCU at UMass at 12:00 p.m. ET
  • Wednesday, February 8 – St. Bonaventure at George Mason – 7:00 p.m. ET

Peacock Classic 2022: How to watch Gonzaga vs. Baylor, live stream info and game preview

0 Comments

Two of men’s college basketball’s elite programs are set to face off when the No. 6 Baylor Bears and No. 14 Gonzaga Bulldogs play in the inaugural “Peacock Classic” Friday night. The game marks a rematch of the highly-anticipated 2021 NCAA National Championship Game, and the Zags will certainly look to get some revenge after Baylor ended their bid at an undefeated season.

The two programs boast two of the best coaches in the country, with Scott Drew of Baylor and Mark Few of Gonzaga working the sidelines. The “Peacock Classic” also marks a crucial point in the development of name, image and likeness deals at the collegiate level. Read on to learn everything you need to know ahead of the event.


How to watch the 2022 “Peacock Classic”

Only those with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan can stream the event. Sign up here or, if you have a free account, upgrade to Premium by going to your account settings.


A new world of NIL opportunities

For the first time, college athletes will be able to earn money by promoting a game in which they are playing.

Eligible players for both Baylor and Gonzaga can opt-in through NBC Sports Athlete Direct – a NIL community connecting student-athletes, advertisers and fans – and promote the game’s sponsors on their personal social media channels.

All participating players will be paid the same rate for their involvement.


Rematch of 2021 NCAA National Championship Game and series history

Baylor’s 86-70 victory over Gonzaga in the 2021 championship game marked the Bears’ first-ever NCAA men’s basketball title. The game carried added stakes since the Bulldogs entered it with a 31-0 record – the first team to make the championship game without a loss since Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores in 1979.

That matchup was a rightful bout between the two behemoths of that season – it was the first championship game that featured the tournament’s top two overall seeds since North Carolina beat Illinois in 2005. Baylor jumped all over Gonzaga in the early going, playing an aggressive style that prevented the Bulldogs from getting into their fluid offense and opened up its own attack for 3-pointers. Gonzaga was a -4.5-point favorite but never led in the game.

Gonzaga leads the all-time series between the teams 5-1, having won all their matchups with Baylor before the championship game. The previous meeting before 2021 saw Gonzaga eliminate Baylor from the 2019 NCAA tournament in the second round by a score of 83-71.


How Baylor and Gonzaga match up with each other

Both teams have been tested multiple times early in their seasons. Gonzaga (5-2) has defeated two teams currently ranked – No. 20 Michigan State and No. 19 Kentucky – but lost to No. 2 Texas and No. 5 Purdue. The Zags last played on Sunday, when they outlasted Xavier 88-84 to secure third place in the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Baylor (5-2) has had it slightly easier but has still had to deal with talented teams; they lost to No. 3 Virginia and defeated No. 21 UCLA in back-to-back games earlier this month. They’re coming off a surprising 96-70 loss to Marquette in Wisconsin Tuesday night as part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

Gonzaga will face a tough task in trying to slow down Baylor’s offense, whose 88.1 points per game ranks ninth in the country.

The Bears are paced by a duo of strong guards. LJ Cryer leads the team at 17.9 points per game, and Adam Flagler is not far behind at 16.9 points per contest while averaging 6.9 assists.

Baylor also boasts the services of freshman Keyonte George, another talented guard who could be a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Naismith Player of the Year Award candidate Drew Timme leads the way for the Zags, averaging 20.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. He’s flanked by Julian Strawther, who’s putting up 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per night.

Timme and Strawther are two of the six Gonzaga players left over from the 2021 finalist team, so vengeance will be top of mind. Baylor also has six holdovers from that championship matchup, including Cryer and Flagler.

With both teams ranked and looking to prove themselves early in the season, Friday will be a statement game – in more ways than one.