The Wildcats are 7-0, including a Charleston Classic championship, but have yet to face a test as tough as Baylor. The Cats have looked much improved since the beginning of the season, but this game should tell us if they're for real.
This game has huge NCAA Tournament implications for NU, as a win could boost its RPI at the end of the year.
Can the Cats pull off the shocker or will Baylor send them back down to Earth?
This is the first meeting between Northwestern and Baylor
KEY PLAYER FOR THE WILDCATS: Luka Mirkovic
Mirkovic has been streaky, at best, in his time in Evanston, but he has started to become more consistent and has been a bigger offensive threat down low for the Cats in the past few games.
Baylor has a very tall and very athletic frontcourt, led by preseason All-American Perry Jones, and Mirkovic will have to have to build on the improvement he's shown in the past few games in order to win this one.
If Mirkovic can get on a roll offensively, that will open up the perimeter shooting game for the Cats. He must make sure he can provide a credible threat down low or else NU will be one-dimensional on offense.
KEY FOR THE BEARS: Dominate the boards
Ultimately, Baylor's ability to disrupt NU down low will decide the game, but the Bears can help themselves by grabbing rebounds, as the Cats have struggled on the boards all season.
Baylor needs to exploit its superior athleticism down low to grab rebounds and create second chance opportunities, as very few teams are able to out-shoot NU without a rebounding advantage.
KEY TO A WILDCAT WIN: Play well down low
If you couldn't tell by now, play in the pain — specifically from Mirkovic — will be the deciding factor in the game.
NU needs to continue to shoot well outside — that's a staple of every Carmody team — but inside play will be even more important. Mirkovic has improved over the last few games and he'll have to be at his best yet against the Bears.
Shurna and Crawford have the size to contribute in grabbing rebounds and creating second chance opportunities, as well. If all three can limit Baylor down low and the whole team continues to hit big shots on the perimeter, the Cats have a chance to take down the Bears.