Indiana at Northwestern
Jan. 28, 2009 - tipoff 7:30
Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston
Both teams had a lot at stake in this game. Northwestern is in a serious run for its first-ever NCAA tournament bid. Indiana, 0-6 Big Ten before the game, was fighting for its first Big Ten win of the season--unheard of for the once-proud basketball power. Thanks to a significant contingent of local Indiana fans, the game is typically a sellout, but that was not the case last night. (Announced 5126 out of 8117 seats--that sounds awfully low.) Somehow my seats ended up among a sea of Indiana fans. I ordered them from the Northwestern ticket office. How did NU know? I didn't click "IU." Strange. The arena is has half as many seats as a normal basketball arena. We had center court, Row BBB, near the top of the house. The single-lettered rows do not go to Z, thank G-d. It would be more accurate to say we were in Row 33 than Row 54. Pretty high, but not as bad as seats in Bloomington, Indiana's Assembly Hall. Come to think of it, I don't think it's possible to have seats as bad as in Bloomington's Assembly Hall. The main seating bowl has about 45 rows, and the last 10 or 20 rows need to deal with the balcony overhang. The balcony has about 10 rows and is much too high. The place is a 60's-era dump in dire need of being replaced. As for Welsh-Ryan Arena, I really can't complain other than the fact that most rows are bleachers rather than individual seats. (Northwestern calls individual seats "Purple Preferred" and reserves those for season tickets.) And the scoreboard obviously hasn't changed since I was a kid. It's crying out for a video board, but Northwestern probably just doesn't want to commit the money. It's using the same lame graphics on its tired LED board that probably went up about 25 years ago. It's Lite-Brite!
Could either team find an inside game? I think the only inside shots were off rebounds or breakaway baskets. If either team can perfect an inside game, it's on to something. Dozens of three-point field goal attempts, many successful. The team that committed the fewest mistakes won, and surprisingly, that turned out to be Northwestern. I was sad for IU and happy for Northwestern. Maybe the Wildcats are on to something. It would be nice to have a strong basketball team in Evanston. Every other school in the Big Ten except for Penn State has had a strong men's basketball team within the last decade. It just couldn't be that hard. It requires a financial commitment to recruiting and coaching. Yes, Northwestern is a small school and the only private school in the Big Ten. Still, it should be able to manage a couple of blue-chip recruits a year. That's all it takes.