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Northwestern is a hot team, and Hawkeyes-Wildcats men’s basketball game Sunday is a hot ticket
Iowa would tie Northwestern for 2nd place in Big Ten with a win in Evanston Sunday, while Wildcats try to keep nipping at Purdue’s heels
On Saturday morning, the cheapest seat on StubHub.com for Sunday’s Iowa-Northwestern men’s basketball game at Evanston’s Welsh-Ryan Arena was $97.
This is the third sellout (7,034 tickets) in an eight-day period for the Wildcats. How quickly things change when you aren’t used to winning and start doing just that.
Another dramatic change is that the Northwestern student body is not only showing up for men’s basketball games, but is creating irritation for opposing teams.
During the Wildcats’ 64-62 win over No. 14 Indiana Wednesday, those students were chanting “(Bleep) Miller Kopp!” throughout the game. Kopp is a former Northwestern player who is now a Hoosier.
Northwestern Coach Doug Collins didn’t like the chants and said so after the game. School athletic director Dr. Derrick Gragg put out a statement the next day saying “The language used violated our collective commitment to sportsmanship and was offensive to many members of our community. We cannot tolerate this type of behavior in our venues.”
This is Northwestern? The leafy (well, not in winter), dignified, Ivy League-ish sanctuary in a well-off suburb? Winning changes everything, and winning is what the Wildcats have been doing.
At the three-quarters pole of the Big Ten season, Northwestern is 10-5 and alone in second place behind Purdue, which fell to the Wildcats in Evanston last Sunday. Iowa, once 0-3, is 9-6.
⧉ Related article: Iowa-Northwestern men’s basketball glance: Time/TV/other info
Which brings us to Sunday. It was just another game when the schedules came out months ago. Now it’s a plum for BTN. Northwestern tries to extend its magical mystery tour at the expense of Iowa, while the Hawkeyes seek to defeat the Wildcats for the second time in under a month and grab a share of second place.
Barring a complete cave-in, Northwestern will make its second-ever NCAA tourney appearance come March. The first was in 2017. From the end of that season to the start of this one, Collins’ Wildcats went 26-71 in Big Ten play.
This year, led by senior guards Boo Buie (16.8 ppg) and Chase Audige (15.1), the ‘Cats are roaring.
“They understand their roles,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Saturday. “They play defense. And they’re aggressive, and they attack. They understand the nuances of what you have to do in close games or winning close games.”
The Hawkeyes haven’t played a game at Welsh-Ryan in front of fans since 2019, so most of their players won’t know it’s unusual for them to be in a hostile environment there. Either Iowa has had as many fans present as Northwestern, or the Hawkeyes’ simply were louder because they had more to cheer about.
“I’m really excited to come into this game,” Iowa guard Connor McCaffery said Thursday. “It’s going to be a fun one. It looks like their home atmosphere has finally picked up a little bit.
“They compete and they freaking go out and play hard every single game.”
It’s Iowa against Wildcat World. Evanston will be rowdy on a Sunday night, at least in its college basketball gym.
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