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Northwestern looks to get off bubble vs. Ohio State

Dave Sobolewski Wildcats are trying give Northwestern its first NCAA tournament appearance. | Jim Prisching~AP

Dave Sobolewski and the Wildcats are trying to give Northwestern its first NCAA tournament appearance. | Jim Prisching~AP

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Ohio State at Northwestern

The facts: 7:30, BTN, 560-AM.

Updated: April 1, 2012 8:16AM

Reggie Hearn can’t escape it, even if he wants to.

Talk of Northwestern being on the bubble for the NCAA tournament has infiltrated all aspects of the program for the last month. Even when Hearn tries to escape to the locker room, ‘‘SportsCenter’’ often is talking about the Wildcats’ chances to make the tournament for the first time.

‘‘We always have ‘SportsCenter’ on in the locker room, and they’re always talking about bubble teams,’’ Hearn said. ‘‘This is that time of the year when that talk is going on. We talk about it a little bit, how great it would be to go to the tournament, but we don’t let it affect our play.’’

NU (17-11, 7-9 Big Ten) has a chance to earn another signature victory when it hosts No. 10 Ohio State on Wednesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Wildcats, whose RPI is 43, upset then-No. 6 Michigan State on Jan. 14, and a victory against the Buckeyes (23-6, 11-5) would bolster their tournament hopes.

‘‘We only have a couple of more weeks to hear about [potentially making the tournament],’’ Hearn said. ‘‘If we take care of business against Ohio State and at Iowa [on Saturday] and in the Big Ten tournament . . . we can squelch all of that [bubble talk].’’

NU helped its chances with a 67-66 victory Saturday at Penn State. It was the first time the Wildcats had won in State College, Pa., since Feb. 16, 2002.

‘‘Everyone knows what the situation is here: We have to win a few games,’’ coach Bill Carmody said. ‘‘I think it’s great they are involved [in monitoring the tournament talk]. We haven’t been in this situation too often, and now we are.’’

Some in the sports world might be watching to see whether NU can earn an NCAA bid for the first time, but Hearn downplayed the attention.

‘‘I don’t think the whole world is watching us, and I think we are a very small part of what is going on with March Madness,’’ Hearn said. ‘‘We are one story amid many. We know there is some pressure on us, but we embrace it.’’

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