Northwestern hosts Iowa at Welsh-Ryan Arena Thursday night, and the Wildcats will try and repeat the magic they had against Illinois Sunday at Assembly Hall in Champaign, when the Wildcats beat the Illini 74-70. And with the second half of the Big Ten season well underway and a month until the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, the Wildcats know they will need to finish league play either at .500 or above if they want to get an NCAA tournament bid -- or win the Big Ten tournament outright. Then, there would be no questions asked.
Coach Bill Carmody isn't overlooking anyone at this point.
"I think last year it was [Iowa coach] Fran [McCaffery's] first year and he was getting used to them and they were getting used to him and they are playing very well right now, at a high level," Carmody said. "They use lots of different guys. They can score and it is really a different team than in the past. He is coaching them hard and playing real well."
The Illinois victory was another signature win for NU, the other being the Jan. 14 victory over Michigan State. The Wildcats latest RPI is 37, but Carmody doesn't care.
"I never look at that. It's a short answer, but if you do look at it, you [should] look at it in another three weeks.
"We have 18 games in conference and [Sunday at Illinois] was the first in the second half. In the Big Ten you're playing against good teams and it won't change that much, RPI wise. At the end of the day, you still have to have the wins and if you go .500 in conference you have a pretty good chance."
As a reference point, Illinois' RPI is 44.