When Northwestern beat Indiana on Jan. 8, there was little reason to think the rematch would be one of the Big Ten’s hottest tickets of the season.

The loss dropped the drooping Hoosiers to 1-3 in the B1G. And Northwestern is, well, Northwestern.

Even though the Cats improved to 3-1 in conference with that 84-83 win, the majority of the viewing public just saw it as a sign that Indiana was bad. Northwestern is the Big Ten’s historic weakling.

When they met again Wednesday night in Evanston, the get-in price on the secondary market was $200. For a game at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Between a pair of teams tied for second place in the Big Ten.

As someone who has been to Welsh-Ryan multiple times over the decades and probably never paid double figures to get in, that figure is nearly impossible to comprehend — even at the current rate of inflation.

But whether Indiana or Northwestern fans — there was a near-equal distribution of both — they got their money’s worth. The Hoosiers rallied from a 21-point deficit to tie the game in the final 30 seconds before Boo Buie sank a jumper with 2.7 seconds left to give the Wildcats the 64-62 win.

Northwestern fans may need to get used to taking the hit to their wallet.

The Wildcats are the only sports team in Cook County worth paying any amount of money to see right now. If you want to watch a lousy team on the cheap, the Bulls, Blackhawks, Loyola or DePaul can oblige.

If you want to see a winner, you need to go to Evanston.

And as unlikely as that scenario is, it pales in comparison to another reality: Northwestern, picked 13th in the Big Ten preseason poll, is now the only team capable of catching Purdue in the Big Ten race.

If that happens, it brings us to the most preposterous scenario of them all: Northwestern’s first Big Ten men’s basketball title since 1933.

Northwestern’s New Deal

Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in as the nation’s 32nd president the same month that the Wildcats last clinched a Big Ten title. For his first term.

Northwestern’s star point guard was named — again, can’t make this up — Eggs Manske. Manske, also a football all-American, earned more notoriety for being the last NFL player to play without wearing a helmet. (Though it is fitting that a point guard named Boo is the spiritual successor to Eggs.)

No one at that time would have considered Illinois to be Northwestern’s biggest rival, or Northwestern to be Chicago’s Big Ten team, because the University of Chicago was still in the Big Ten. And with the Wildcats winning their second Big Ten title in 3 years, no one at the time probably would have assumed the next 89 seasons would fail to produce another.

Northwestern’s 1995 football run to the Rose Bowl was a bolt out of the blue that remains unmatched in Big Ten history. But the basketball Wildcats winning their first title in 90 years would absolutely exceed it.

With Wednesday night’s win over Indiana, Northwestern fans can start dreaming that dream. Because it’s no longer the stuff of pure fantasy.

The B1G’s undisputed No. 2…

For the majority of this season, Purdue was on the brink of lapping the field as the Big Ten’s best team. Minnesota was the undisputed cellar dweller. And teams 2-13 seemingly varied on a nightly basis.

In the past couple of weeks, Indiana and Northwestern have established themselves as the Big Ten’s clear next-best teams behind the Boilers. It’s not just that the Hoosiers and Wildcats worked their way up the jumbled standings into a tie for second place. They did so by beating Purdue in the process.

The winner of Wednesday night’s game would stand as the lone team capable of chasing down the Boilermakers for the regular-season title.

It’s Northwestern.

For the first half, it looked like it would be easy. Indiana was out of sorts against Northwestern’s defense, which ranks only behind Rutgers in the Big Ten. Northwestern’s 39-20 halftime lead appeared insurmountable.

It wasn’t.

It took Indiana more than 19 minutes to get there, but the Hoosiers showed their mettle and clawed all the way back. Northwestern, in very foreign territory after 5 straight losing seasons, looked rattled. With overtime, Indiana seemed certain to complete one of the great comebacks in the program’s illustrious history.

Instead, Buie delivered a Northwestern shot for the ages.

… With a shot at No. 1

The question is no longer whether Northwestern is going to the NCAA Tournament. It’s whether the Wildcats will win the Big Ten.

The Cats still trail the Boilermakers by 2 games in the loss column, but own the tiebreaker. Purdue visits a Maryland team that has yet to lose at home Thursday night. There’s another game with Indiana looming. A never-fun trip to play Wisconsin at Kohl Center.

It’s very possible Purdue has another 2-3 losses on the schedule.

Northwestern’s very lonely Big Ten title banners — 1931 and ’33 — may finally get some long-awaited company in the rafters.

And even if it doesn’t happen in the regular season, the Wildcats are poised to bring a double-bye and a sea of purple to the United Center for the Big Ten Tournament.

Everything’s coming up Cats.

History isn’t just what happened to Northwestern 90 years ago. It’s happening as we speak.