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updated: 3/3/2017 6:15 AM

North: Wildcats deserve to dance, but what about Illini?

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  • Northwestern center Dererk Pardon, right, celebrates with center Barret Benson after Northwestern defeated Michigan 67-65 in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Evanston, Ill.

    Northwestern center Dererk Pardon, right, celebrates with center Barret Benson after Northwestern defeated Michigan 67-65 in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Evanston, Ill.

 
 

If the Northwestern Wildcats (21-9) are not invited to the 2017 NCAA men's basketball tournament, I'll be stunned.

After an exciting last-second victory Wednesday evening over the Michigan Wolverines (67-65), the Wildcats virtually cemented their first invitation to the big dance. I still find it hard to believe their men's college basketball team has never been invited! Never!

NU started playing men's basketball in 1901, but the Wildcats have not had much success. Chris Collins and this year's team wiped out all that bad history with one huge victory.

Now my question is: will Illinois also be invited?

John Groce, the head coach of the Illini, is hoping his team can beat lowly Rutgers on Saturday and boost its record to 19-12. The Fighting Illini just beat the Michigan Spartans (18-12) Wednesday night, which was a very important 73-70 victory.

But let me remind everyone that the Illini also beat Northwestern twice this season. In my book, Illinois deserves the nod.

I'd love to see both teams make the tourney, and it looks like the drought of Illinois teams in the tournament will finally be over. (Illinois State is 25-5 with a power ranking behind Northwestern but ahead of Illinois.)

The Wildcats' first appearance in the tournament will be courtesy of a miracle 90-foot pass by Nate Taphorn to Dererk Pardon, who made the biggest shot of his life. He banked the ball in for 2 points with barely any time left on the clock, and history was made.

Congratulations to all at Northwestern, and especially to athletic director Jim Phillips, who made the right choice in hiring Collins in 2013.

Solid gold Ross:

Has anyone ever cashed in better than David Ross?

"Grandpa," as his former Cubs teammates like to call him, will be on "Dancing with the Stars." Believe me, it's well deserved for someone everyone seems to love.

The marketing of Ross is a phenomenon that just keeps getting better. He connected with his teammates and with the fans on a personal level, and he will reap the benefits in his post-playing career.

I can't imagine anyone being a better ambassador for the Cubs than Ross, and I couldn't be happier for such a regular guy.

Of course, none of this happens without the Cubs winning their first World Series in 108 years, but Ross wasn't just a bystander. He was a contributor with big hits down the stretch, and a happy calmness about him that his young teammates gravitated toward.

Ross was smart enough to ride the wave, but was never arrogant about it, and now the world is his oyster!

Hey, I admitted in an earlier podcast with Cubs reporter Jesse Rogers of ESPN 1000-AM that I didn't see what all the hubbub was about. But I'm open-minded enough to admit that the guy grew on me after watching the last few months of the season and postseason.

Good luck to Ross on "DWTS" and everything else. Character pays off, and he sure won me over.

• Follow Mike on Twitter @north2north. Check out his podcast Monday-Friday at podcastarena.com, iTunes or audioboom. His column appears each Friday in the Daily Herald. Visit northtonorth.com.

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