Boo Buie calls Northwestern ‘underdogs’ before UConn tournament matchup

Northwestern opened as a 13-point underdog against top overall seed Connecticut for Sunday’s NCAA Tournament matchup at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

To Boo Buie, in his fifth year as Northwestern’s point guard and the school’s all-time scoring leader, it’s something the Wildcats are accustomed to.

“You could just call us the underdogs,’’ Buie said Saturday. “I’ve been here five years. I don’t remember a time when we weren’t the underdogs. It’s nothing new. We are just going to come out, we are the underdogs.”

Boo Buie celebrates Northwestern’s win over Florida Atlantic. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago. Chris Collins’ team knocked off Boise State in the first round before running into UCLA, a No. 2 seed, and hanging with the Bruins before falling late.

After the tournament, Buie initially declared for the NBA draft, but decided to come back to Evanston for another season.

And this year, the Wildcats faced stiff competition in games against Purdue — ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time — and Illinois.

“I think it’s just great preparation,’’ said Buie, who scored 22 points in Northwestern’s overtime win over FAU in the first round. “We played against great teams all year long. So playing against a No. 1 is just … we played against a No. 1 before. So it’s kind of a ‘been there, done that’ mentality.”

Northwestern head coach Chris Collins Getty Images

Still, nothing they’ve seen really compares to defending champion UConn.

“Look, they are the best team in the country,’’ Collins said. “They have earned that. Do they have more talent than us top to bottom? Probably so. But I think what’s beautiful about the NCAA Tournament is it’s one game. If we had to play them in a best-of-seven, we are not going to win a series. That’s just the reality. They are the better team across the board. But that doesn’t mean on one night you can’t put it together.

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“Can we, on one night, put 40 minutes together where we are dialed in and we can execute and where we can make some shots and where we can somewhat slow down their juggernaut offensively. That’s the challenge. One game.”

A lot of that will depend on Buie’s performance.

In an age of transfer portals and players bouncing from one school to the next, the Albany native has spent all five of his seasons at Northwestern, building a reputation in part by a willingness to fire away from long range with impunity.

“I’m pretty much thinking about, ‘If you leave me open, I’m going to shoot it,’ ” Buie said. “But if I’m too far, then I probably won’t shoot it. It depends, also, on if I’ve hit a couple or not. Because if I hit a couple, I’m liable to shoot it from anywhere.”

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