For the second consecutive year, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament selection committee released an early list of their current top 16 (and, accordingly, each regional host) Monday night. Coming off of a big week, Northwestern (19-3, 9-2 B1G), winners of seven of their last eight, slotted in at #16.
The committee followed the lead of the most prominent national women’s basketball bracketologists: namely, ESPN’s Charlie Creme and High Post Hoops’ Russ Steinberg, who each currently have the Wildcats as 4-seeds. Northwestern, for now, was slotted into the Midwest Region, with Fort Wayne and (likely) top-seeded Louisville awaiting them in the Sweet 16 should they emerge from their first two games.
In their history, the Wildcats have been seeded higher than seventh just once in their seven total trips to the NCAA Tournament. In 1990, which also marks the year of their only ever Big Ten Title (they earned a share of the regular season crown), Don Perrelli’s squad earned a #4 seed, losing in their first game to #5 South Carolina after a first round bye.
Northwestern has not hosted an NCAA Tournament game since 1993, which also marked their last win in an NCAA Tournament game: another Perrelli-coached unit took down Georgia Tech in a first round 8-9 matchup before falling to top-seeded Tennessee. The Wildcats have reached the tourney just once since 1997, when a Nia Coffey-led team lost in the first round to Arkansas in 2015.
An uphill climb awaits this iteration of NU as they look to write their name into the program’s history books permanently. The final seven games of their regular season schedule, though they include challenging matchups aplenty (@ Ohio State and @ Michigan stand out in particular), will not help their RPI, currently at 16.
In order to secure a top-four seed and the all-important status of regional hosts, Northwestern may well have to win out in the regular season, or at least make noise in the Big Ten Tournament. Either way, it’s clear that these Wildcats have set themselves up well for the stretch run.
And what a stretch run it has the potential to be.