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The Margin: Northwestern, arguably Big Ten’s brainiest school, is no longer a basketball joke

Prestigious Northwestern University’s purple has been perennially washed out by orange or red or whatever color its rivals have packed into the lowly Wildcats’ home.

Northwestern’s default smack talk, among basketball fans at least, relied on the Big Ten school’s academic fortitude — the reason why most of its 21,000 students (among the smallest in the conference) select this Lake Michigan shore-front campus in Evanston, just north of Chicago.

But up until this year, Northwestern was the only major-conference school (and it’s one of the charter members of the Big Ten) to never make the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, even though it hosted the very first tournament championship game way back in 1939.

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