Heading into a crucial weekend, starting with tonight’s tilt with Minnesota, Northwestern women’s basketball should feel comfortable with where they are in the season thus far.
Last Sunday proved to be a bit of a reality check, as the surging ‘Cats were brought back down to earth with a humbling 77-51 home loss to Iowa, but this team still sits in a comfortable spot as they hope to crack the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015 and just the second time this century.
The blowout loss to Iowa definitely stings, yet the Wildcats are still sitting pretty with a No. 20 RPI ranking — the third best in the conference behind just Indiana and the Hawkeyes themselves. Northwestern’s only other loss this season was a last second heartbreaker against Depaul, who has climbed all the way to a No. 9 RPI ranking. Two losses for NU against two Top 15 RPI teams? Not bad at all.
But this team’s resume so far is about more than just quality losses. As things stand, three of Northwestern’s twelve total wins have come against Top 50 RPI teams (Marquette, Duke, Maryland), and two of those three wins were true road games, while two also came by more than 20 points. The Wildcats’ blowout victory over a Maryland team ranked No. 12 at the time remains one of the Big Ten’s best wins thus far, and will remain a huge resumé booster as the ‘Cats make their case for a tournament berth down the stretch.
Joe McKeown’s team is yet to crack the AP Top 25 on the season (finished 26th in voting this past week), but NU is starting to gain national attention and respect from the few outlets across the country that take part in NCAA Women’s Bracketology predictions. Here’s where some experts have NU projected to land as of early January:
ESPN’s Charlie Creme: No. 6 Seed
ESPN’s resident women’s bracketologist currently as the ‘Cats slated as a No. 6 seed headed to the Starkville Region. Granted, his last bracket was released before the NU loss to Iowa. The Wildcats are one ten teams Creme has slated to crack the field.
FanSided’s Russell Steinberg: No. 5 Seed
Steinberg, a versatile college basketball blogger and contributor for FanSide’s High Post Hoops blog has Joe McKeown’s team all the way up to a No. 5 seed as of two days ago. He has the Wildcats in College Station with a first-round matchup against OU (softball revenge game I’m here for it).
RealTimeRPI.com: No. 6 Seed
This website, which allegedly claims it 100 percent predicted the 2017 NCAA Men’s Tournament field, also has the Wildcats as a mid-tier seed.
We’ll continue to stay updated with all the bracketology predictions (and maybe even create some of our own) as the Wildcats continue their quest for a tournament bid. For now, they seem to be in a good spot, but Big Ten play will pose some significant challenges.
Conference play continues tonight for NU as they’ll be in The Barn in Minnesota for a showdown against a respectable Golden Gopher (11-3, 1-2) squad. The game tips off at 7:00 pm CST on BTN+, and can be heard on WNUR Sports.