After a season in which they have proved themselves time and time again to be legit, Northwestern has finally gotten the respect they deserve. With only one bad game on the year in a blowout loss at home to a good #19 Iowa team, a close loss to #11 Depaul, and quality wins over #20 Maryland and #17 Indiana, Joe McKeown’s group has finally cracked the top 25.
The ‘Cats come into the week ranked #22, their first ranking since January of 2016, and are currently projected to be a five seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The projected appearance would mark their first since 2015 and only their second of the century.
The full Week 12 poll:
Northwestern has gotten to where they are by playing disciplined. The ‘Cats stay out of trouble, committing just 13.7 fouls per game, the 14th fewest in the NCAA. They commit just 11.8 turnovers per game, 10th in the nation. They move the ball well, with a 71.4% assisted shot rate (4th in the nation), 1.55 assist to turnover ratio (3rd) and 18.3 assists per game (11th.)
NU has also shown a penchant for smothering defense, with a 13.1% steal rate (16th), 36.7% opposing shooting percentage (58th), and only .67 points per play allowed (16th).
Individually, Northwestern largely leans on their starting 5. Sydney Wood doesn’t stuff the stat sheet, but makes some incredible plays on defense, and is a valuable asset to McKeown’s offense with her ability to move the ball (her 3.1 assist-to-turnover ratio is 14th in the nation).
Veronica Burton, meanwhile, has gotten it done all over the floor, averaging 8.9 points, 5.4 assists, 3.8 steals, and 4.8 rebounds per game. Burton’s performance has been concerning at times, but she stepped up for the Cats against Maryland, and was a catalyst when the team needed her against Indiana. When the pressure rises, Burton elevates to meet it.
Abbie Wolf and Abi Scheid have been good in the frontcourt, with Scheid posting 12.3 ppg, and Wolf 11.7. Wolf has struggled at times, posting only 4 points total against Iowa and Minnesota. After a bounce-back game against Purdue, the senior, averaging seven rebounds per game, will look to continue her dominance in the post.
Scheid, meanwhile, has quietly been NU’s best player of late. The 6’2” senior is shooting 48% from beyond the arc, demanding attention on the perimeter, and opening up the court for her teammates. After pouring in 24 points on 6-6 shooting from beyond the arc against Penn State, she hit 1000 points, a milestone that she is only the second player on NU’s current roster to reach.
Today, she was honored as the Big Ten Player of the Week, becoming the first NU player to be recognized as such this season.
2018-19 #B1G Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten honoree Abi Scheid of @nuwbball is the #B1GWBBall Player of the Week, averaging 20.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.5 apg in 2 wins, including a #B1G record-tying 6-6 3FG on Sunday vs. Penn State: https://t.co/qvPPFsP7l4 pic.twitter.com/tWvpa3I0WX— Big Ten Women's Hoops (@B1Gwbball) January 20, 2020
Lindsey Pulliam isn’t quite having the efficient season she was hoping to have, shooting only .383 from the floor. She hasn’t let this keep her from stuffing the stat sheet, averaging 18.3 points per game, while shooting 32% from beyond the arc on the season, a skill which she worked hard to hone in the offseason.
In a close win against the Hoosiers, and a dominating performance against Penn State, the ‘Cats have finally gotten the attention of the AP Press, and look to continue trending upwards, with a 16-2 record overall and an impressive 6-1 conference mark that has them tied for first in the Big Ten.