Their school is IN.

Greg Gumbel will call their name on Selection Sunday.

For the first time in 79 years, for the only time in 79 years, Northwestern will make the NCAA tournament.

That’s not a big deal to all those Power 5 schools that know pretty much every November where they’re headed in March, but to the Wildcats, it is everything. And the national reaction has been immense.

On Thursday morning NU fans could flip to ESPN2, where "Mike and Mike" co-host Mike Greenberg, wearing a black Northwestern T-shirt with gothic lettering — matching what the players wore Wednesday night — was interviewing coach Chris Collins.

After joking that the worst thing his sister ever did was to teach dad Doug to text — "now he’s the emoji king" — Collins said: "When we took this on, I knew it would be tough, a big journey. It’s about doing this for a long time, not just having one team that does well. I think we’re on to the start of something good, which is really exciting."

Exciting, indeed.

The winning play Wednesday night goes down as the greatest moment in NU hoops history. Nate Taphorn fired a bomb to Dererk Pardon — both appeared Thursday morning on ESPN’s "SportsCenter" — and Pardon knocked in the long layup.

"Who would have thought that the greatest pass in Northwestern history would belong to the basketball program?" former NU quarterback C.J. Bacher joked in a text.

Pardon beat the buzzer, and students mobbed the players on the court.

"That’s the least Northwestern thing ever," tweeted Seth Meyers, who hosts "Late Night" on NBC.

Northwestern has not only been used as an adjective over the years to describe flops and moments of misery, ESPN studio host Karl Ravech used the school as a verb after it blew a late lead to Indiana on Saturday, marking five losses in seven games.

"Northwestern-ing … just kind of limping home and potentially playing their way out of the tournament," Ravech said.

And Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune photo-shopped an image of a worn-out Vic Law near the infamous black cat at Shea Stadium.

After his postgame news conference Wednesday, Collins good-naturedly told the Tribune reps there: "The ’69 Cubs, bury that one. Put it in the cemetery."

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Northwestern in as a 9 seed after the 67-65 victory over what had been a surging Michigan team.

CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm tweeted this: "I didn’t have Northwestern on my bubble. I said they could lose to Michigan and Purdue and still get in. This way was a lot more fun."

That it was. And there’s more fun ahead. Potentially, anyway.

The CBS Sports Final Four crew of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson come to Evanston on Sunday for the final game (3:30 p.m.) before Welsh-Ryan Arena gets gutted for an 18-month, $110 million renovation. The opponent is Purdue, which is at the top of the Big Ten standings.

The Boilermakers clubbed the Wildcats 80-59 a month ago at Mackey Arena. It was NU’s first game without Scottie Lindsey (mono), and it started NU’s slide.

"I want to play just like we played tonight, like we HAVE to win it," Law said. "There is no other option but winning. Purdue beat us by like 30, so I’m excited to play Sunday."

Pardon takes a differing view.

"We got the monkey off our backs," he said, "and we can play free."

The Wildcats will be either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed next week in the Big Ten tournament in Washington, D.C. They’ll have the No. 6 slot — prime time, the bottom of the draw — unless they beat Purdue and Michigan State loses to Maryland.

Either way, their first game is next Thursday.

Three days later, their name will be called.

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

This article was sourced from http://news8ct.com