As we officially enter autumn in Evanston, it can only mean one thing: Basketball is back! The men's season officially began Friday with a comfortable yet uninspiring win over UMass Lowell.
But there's another, more exciting basketball team at Northwestern, and they're coached by Joe McKeown. The 19th ranked Northwestern Women's basketball team begins its own season Sunday against Howard, and there are plenty of reasons why you should be excited for the season. Here are just a few:
They are really good at basketball
Let's play a quick game, which team would you rather watch?
Team A: 23-9 (12-6 B1G), 71.8 PPG, 44% FG, 5.8 3PT, 10.2 STL, 5.8 BLK
Opponents: 62.7 PPG, 37% FG, 18.9 Turnovers
Team B: 15-17 (6-12 B1G), 63.5 PPG, 44%FG, 7.1 3PT, 3.7 STL, 3.9 BLK
Opponents: 64.6 PPG, 42% FG, 9.5 Turnovers
I think you know where this is going, but Team A is pretty clearly the choice here. They score more per game, shoot about the same and play way better defense than Team B. Well surprise! Team A is the 2014 Northwestern women's basketball team! (Team B is the 2014 Northwestern men's team)
Must Women's Basketball
Must Women's Basketball
If for no other reason, you should be excited about this team because they were really good last year and might be even better this year. After making the NCAA tournament as a 7-seed last season, the Wildcats start this season ranked 19th in the AP poll. Thanks to a relatively easy non-conference schedule, they may very well break into the top 10 before the year is over.
They also have one of the Big Ten's best players in Nia Coffey. Coffey almost averaged a double-double last year with 15.8 PPG and 8.7 REB. She also shot a cool 44 percent from the field and 33 percent from three. To complement Coffey, the Wildcats have sharpshooter Maggie Lyon (13.8 PPG, 41% 3pt FG) and top Big Ten guard Ashley Deary (10.0 PPG, 4.8 AST, 3.1 STL).
As mentioned above, this team is really good.
They play at a breakneck pace
"Ugh, women's basketball is boring" - Someone who has clearly never watched women's basketball. Seriously, this is a real game that Northwestern played in last year. 102-99! The two teams were 32 for 46 from three. THERE WERE THIRTY TWO THREE-POINTERS HIT IN THIS GAME.
For a more recent reference, Northwestern beat Division II Seton Hill 103-44 on Sunday in an exhibition. For those of you scoring at home, that's a 59-point scoring margin. Yes, it was in an exhibition, but the men's team only beat Quincy 80-64 in their exhibition.
Some other fun stats from that game, Nia Coffey had 29 points and 9 rebounds on 75 percent shooting in 20 minutes, Maggie Lyon had 18 points and 8 rebounds in 23 minutes and Ashley Deary had 6 points, 7 assists, and 10 steals (!!!) in 16 minutes. Oh, also Seton Hill shot 12.5 percent from the field, turned the ball over 25 times and scored 6 points in the paint. Northwestern scored 74.
Anyway, the reason that all this scoring is possible is because Northwestern plays basketball at a very fast pace. As soon as the ball is inbounded, they're sprinting down the court, they also immediately look to move the ball down the court after defensive stops. It's non-stop, just up and down and up and down the court. Also included with the quick pace is great passing and the previously mentioned three pointers. It's really a joy to watch for anyone that likes good basketball.
They've made the Tournament before
Last year, in fact, for the first time in 17 years. And they very well could get back there again this season.
Joe McKeown is a fantastic coach
When McKeown became the coach in 2008, the team won seven games and only three in the Big Ten. Just six years later, Northwestern was nationally ranked and playing in the NCAA Tournament. McKeown is a really, really good coach, that can't be said enough. He was a legend at George Washington, where he made 16 NCAA Tournaments including nine straight before leaving for Northwestern. Then, during this past offseason, Coach McKeown was the head coach of the USA Women's Basketball in the Women's World University Games and won the gold medal. Yeah, he's pretty good at this coaching thing.
He's also really excited for the season:
"It's good to be back and it's exciting to get going. A lot of things going on, but it's good to start playing, it's just kind of exciting to be at Northwestern right now. It rejuvenates me."
Yes it does Coach. Yes, it certainly does.