Rank and smile

Last week Purple Reign speculated about Northwestern cracking the AP Top 25. Well, for the first time in more than 30 years, the Wildcats are indeed ranked. A look at the No. 25 Wildcats (has a nice ring, doesn't it?) and what transpired last week to put them in the Top 25.

Northwestern's men's basketball team has not been ranked since January, 1969. Until this week.

The Wildcats appeared today as the No. 25 team in the nation. The Cats, 10-1 and winners of nine straight, received 144 votes, vaulting them past Gonzaga, the highest vote-getting team not ranked, which received 129 votes.

"It's nice recognition for what the guys have done so far," coach Bill Carmody told NUSports.com. "I think they feel good about that, just like any other team and players do.

"I hadn't even thought about it, to tell you the truth," said Carmody of whether or not his team was expecting a ranking. "I think it's good for the guys. You're going along all this time and it's someone saying, ‘You guys have done pretty well so far.'"

Other Big Ten teams in the poll are No. 4 Purdue, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 15 Ohio State and No. 23 Wisconsin. The Big Ten's five teams are more than any other conference save the Big East, which also has five teams.

The Wildcats also received some votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll. In that poll, the No. 25 team is Florida State, which received 67 votes this week. Northwestern got 43 votes, behind only four other unranked teams which received votes. (Florida had 60, UNLV 51, Wisconsin 49 and BYU 49.)

Purple Reign looked last week at what it would take for the Cats to finally crack the AP poll. Basically, the hypothesis was that No. 24 Clemson, No. 23 Texas Tech, No. 22 Washington and No. 21 Temple would all move up because they all either won or were idle last week. And there figured to be room to move up. Last week's No. 18, Florida, lost its third straight game, No. 19 Texas A&M lost its second game in three tries, No. 20 Butler lost its fourth game and No. 25 Gonzaga notched its third loss.

So four teams figured to slide out, four move figured to move up. In theory, that meant there would be room for NU after that vacuum effect.

That's exactly how it played out. This week, Temple, Washington and Texas Tech are all top 20, and Clemson came it at No. 21; Florida, A&M, Butler and Gonzaga all dropped out. Insert Northwestern, which has neutral site wins over Notre Dame and Iowa State, and a road win at North Carolina State.

Things could go one of two ways for NU now. The Cats' have an absolutely brutal opening to the Big Ten season (more on that in an upcoming article). They play at Illinois Wednesday night and host Michigan State on Saturday. Thus, NU is possibly staring at a short-lived stay in the Top 25 – the No. 25 team generally falls out if it loses – or the Cats could very well catapult themselves into the top 20.

With how this team has smashed expectations all season, it'd be foolhardy to put anything past them. Including a prolonged stay in the Top 25.

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