Cats squandered too many chances

Thursday's loss to Minnesota in OT at the Big Ten tournament was another squandered opportunity for Northwestern. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

INDIANAPOLIS -- There are various levels of disappointment with the most painful being the one at which you’re so close to success, but still end up in failure.

Thursday’s 75-68 overtime loss to Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament was that for Northwestern. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it was hardly the first defeat of that nature this season.

2011-12 has been a season defined by them. There may not be another team in the country that has been so close to success, but still so far from it.

Here’s a quick look back at Northwestern’s myriad gut-wrenching disappointments this season:

• 57-56 loss to Illinois on Jan. 4

• 66-64 overtime loss to Michigan on Jan. 11

• 58-56 loss to Purdue on Jan. 28

• 71-66 loss to Indiana on Feb. 15

• 67-55 overtime loss to Michigan on Feb. 21

• 75-73 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 29

• 75-68 overtime loss to Minnesota on March 8

Despite ending up on the wrong end of so many close calls, Northwestern’s spirits haven’t been crushed through it all. The Wildcats consider themselves fighters, and that’s what they’ll continue to do.

“This team’s tough,” Northwestern sophomore JerShon Cobb said. “We come back. We fight through adversity. But sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.”

While each disappointment has been difficult for the Wildcats to endure, what will make them even harder to swallow if they’re the reasons Northwestern is kept out of the NCAA tournament again. If Northwestern wins any of those games, it may just be on the right side of the bubble.

Northwestern junior Drew Crawford hoped the NCAA tournament selection committee didn’t evaluate it simply based on wins and losses and saw there was more to its résumé. He felt the Wildcats left no doubt they could play with anyone in the country with so many close games in the Big Ten. They just haven’t won them all.

“It’s a game we should have won,” Crawford said of the Minnesota loss. “It was a tough game that we weren’t able to win. At the same time, we’re a tough team. I think that we showed throughout the entire year. So I just hope other people understand that and able to see that we’re a tough team, capable of playing with the elite.”