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Northwestern barely beats 1-16 team

Were this just one game, Northwestern could be forgiven for having an off night. After all, Oregon State just lost to Seattle by 50 points; weird things happen to marginal basketball teams, and one weird night shouldn't necessarily doom a season.

That said, whatever good vibes Northwestern had going into the Big Ten season might now, officially, be all the way gone. Thursday night NU hosted Texas Pan-American at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Pan-Am (every time I hear "Pan-Am" I think of Alec Baldwin's character in the still-sort-of-underrated movie "Aviator," and I get kind of mad that "Million Dollar Baby" won Best Picture in 2004, but OH WELL) is not a good basketball team; they entered Thursday night's game 1-16, including losses to Missouri and Texas by a combined scored of -- get this -- 118 points.

Pan-Am could have fooled the Wildcats. Northwestern leading scorer Michael Thompson played 17 scoreless minutes in the first half, and NU trailed by seven at halftime. Northwestern picked things up in the second half and eventually took home a 53-44 win. But the win is almost less important than the circumstances surrounding it: 53-44? A halftime deficit? At home? To Texas Pan-American?

This is classic Northwestern basketball, and by "classic," I mean "bad." Along with last week's losses to Illinois and Michigan State -- the MSU loss was a blowout at home -- the Wildcats are getting dangerously careless with their hot start. NCAA tournament teams don't play this poorly against 1-16 teams at home. Are the Wildcats still a tournament team?