Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor: I’m sure most of us (if not all of us) will pick Vanderbilt to advance, and for good reason. Aside from the blowout against Arkansas in which the Commodores were physically exhausted and had to deal with a team that makes opponents expend a lot of energy, their only loss in the last nine games came in a valiant effort at Kentucky. Northwestern, on the other hand, is 3-7 in its last 10 games against teams other than Rutgers, the worst team in the Big Ten.
Vanderbilt is playing great basketball, and Northwestern isn’t. Luke Kornet will cause huge trouble for the Wildcats; for the season, they get an insane 10 percent of their two-pointers blocked, and Dererk Pardon can’t guard Kornet on the perimeter. Luke will have his finest moment as a Commodore, dropping a masterful 15 points, seven rebounds and five blocks in a 67-52 Vanderbilt win.
Also, I’ll take Mr. C over Kim Kardashian’s kid any day.
Cutler Klein, Assistant Sports Editor: Vanderbilt matches up with Northwestern well in a number of ways. First, Luke Kornet is significantly taller than any Northwestern player, so he should have his way with the Wildcats on the blocks. Second, Vanderbilt can shoot the three-pointer better than most teams in the country, and Northwestern hasn’t been the best at defending it. If they don’t get cold from beyond the arc, the Commodores should be able to make some quick runs and get some big leads. Finally, most of the players on this team have been to the Big Dance before. This is Northwestern’s first appearance, and there will most definitely be some jitters.
Final score: Vanderbilt 72 Northwestern 61
Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief: The Commodores couldn’t score in the opening minutes of both halves of their last game against Arkansas. That’s not going to happen again. I think the Commodores will win this game comfortably, led by Luke Kornet, whose versatility will cause trouble for Northwestern center Dererk Pardon. He will out-rebound and out-score Pardon, including in the paint. I expect the Commodores to be nervous in the opening minutes of the game, relying a little more on getting close shots than usual. However, they will take off from beyond the arc after settling down and pull away, much like they did against Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. This is a different team from last year, and it won’t disappoint us.
Steve Sherk, sports reporter: Northwestern will probably come out of the game with over-the-top energy, given that it’s never played on a stage like this before. Sometimes this jacked-up psyche gives the team a boost, but more often it causes sloppy play, which is why I think the Commodores will take a strong lead early on. From then on, I think the game could go either direction; it will mostly depend on how Vanderbilt shoots from three. Given that these two teams are trending in opposite directions (Vanderbilt up and Northwestern down), I’ll pick the ‘Dores to win 65-57.
Max Schneider, sports reporter: The NCAA tournament is all about being hot at the right time. The Commodores come into this game winners of seven of their last nine. The Wildcats, on the other hand, have dropped seven of their last twelve.
Head coach Chris Collins has his Northwestern team fired up for its first-ever tournament appearance, and the Northwestern contingent figures to travel well and pack the stands in Salt Lake City, but all good things must come to an end. Vanderbilt’s ability to space the floor and knock down shots, especially late in games, will prove to be just enough to outlast the Wildcats and their stingy defense. Look for Luke Kornet to come up big in this one against a team that struggles to defend versatile big men.
‘Dores: 69, Cats: 65
Karim Oliver, sports reporter: In a battle of the Early Decision I for overachievers, gotta go with the lower acceptance rate. Vandy: more, NW: less
Torben Ginsberg, sports reporter: The Commodores and the Wildcats play similar offensive games, each slowing the pace down and spreading the scoring around. Both teams lack transition offenses, each scoring just 13 percent of their points in transition, per Synergy Sports Technology. I think that Vandy has the edge in this one, however, given how well it’s performed defensively in recent games. In a matchup between two similar teams in March, the deciding factors are often three-point shooting and defense, both of which are in the ‘Dores’ favor. Expect their first tournament win since 2012.
Max Herz, sports reporter: Vanderbilt stays hot and Northwestern settles for a first-round exit in their tourney debut. NW leads 28-24 at halftime but forgets that college basketball doesn’t operate under the quarter system like NW’s academic calendar and conserves energy for the third and fourth quarters, which do not exist. The Commodores win 70-58 and move on to beat South Dakota State in a 2015 NIT rematch, advancing to the Sweet 16.
Jordan Grapentine, sports reporter: If you were so unlucky as to tour Northwestern as a prospective student, you have all the tools necessary to analyze not only the university but also its basketball team.
At first, you’re amazed by the plain yet attractive campus — the basketball squad jumped out to a solid 12-2 record against weak competition (No. 157 non-conference strength of schedule) to start the season.
The tour begins, and you’re lured in by leafy boulevards and classic architecture — Northwestern jumped out to a 7-2 start in B1G conference play, sparking whispers of a first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
About halfway through the tour, confusion starts to creep as you’re shepherded through the disjointed campus in your pack with Hogwarts scarf-wearing resume-stuffers whose parents “can’t believe how much has changed since THEY attended” and an uppity tour guide — the team won just three of its next nine games, leading pundits to sour on the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins to publicly state his team had too much heart to see its dancing dreams fizzle.
As the visit came to a close, you’re left slightly jaded after two-and-a-half hours of trudging through the cold while the guide assures everyone that “Evanston is beautiful in the summer!” — the Wildcats’ Big Ten tournament semifinal appearance (their first ever) culminated in a 76-48 thumping at the hands of fellow NCAA tournament No. 8 seed Wisconsin.
In the end, you probably still applied to Northwestern University anyway, because you’d already invested a whole weekend to the damn place without really caring whether or not you were accepted — after months of hype, this Northwestern team and fanbase is really just happy to be here.
Vanderbilt 78, Northwestern 65.