Lacking a defining win six games into the Chris Collins era, the Wildcats travel to Las Vegas with an opportunity to steal upset victories. They play two likely NCAA Tournament locks, with Missouri tonight and No. 19 UCLA tomorrow.
The word "potential" floats around Evanston. Even with low expectations, Jershon Cobb and Drew Crawford have inspired optimism in their respective returns. Alex Olah, too, scored 18 points and added five blocks in his most recent game.
And at times, they've played more than competent basketball — driven by dynamic offense and sharp perimeter defense. Against Gardner-Webb, Northwestern made 18 of its 27 second-half shot attempts while finally working the ball inside.
Missouri and UCLA are a combined 10-0 this year, though neither owns an impressive win. NU, which traveled to Palo Alto to face Stanford, has had the only true road challenge.
"We're capable of being a great team," Crawford said on Monday, "so I think just the opportunity to go out there and play two great teams is going to be great for us. That's exciting in itself."
And so it is. Northwestern could surprise people, and they'll start trying their luck in Vegas.