Happy holidays everybody! With the 25th of December rapidly approaching, we wanted to tell you what the Inside NU staff each asked Santa for this year (side note: how have we not gotten a video from the official NU football account that involves Joe Spivak dressed as Santa?)
Daniel Olinger: A Sweet Sixteen appearance for the women’s basketball team
This wish is far from a lock, seeing that the team is slightly down from what it was the last two seasons following the departures of Abi Schied, Abbie Wolf, Lindsey Pulliam and Jordan Hamilton, but I want this so bad that I’m going to try and speak it into existence.
The 2019-20 squad was a juggernaut that got robbed of a run not only at the Sweet Sixteen, but maybe, just maybe even a shot at title contention. The 2020-21 rendition had a blast for roughly six quarters, beating UCF and holding a sizeable lead over 2-seed Louisville before watching it all slip away. Veronica Burton has been at the heart of this program the past four years, and what better way would there be for her to exit Evanston than with back-to-back wins in March.
Ben Chasen: Peter Costelli or Zach Calzada
Maybe my request is more specific or less wholesome than most. And yes, I realize that — as was noted in a great column by our own Gavin Dorsey — a single transfer quarterback won’t solve all of Northwestern football’s bugaboos, even in the short term. At the same time, next football season is my last as a Northwestern student. Plausibly, it’s the last at what will soon be the “old” Ryan Field, too. I have no Rose Bowl expectations, no belief in some magical breakthrough campaign for the ‘Cats in 2022. But I want to be able to believe that, regardless of the opponent, I might see a Wildcat victory every time I walk through the gates of Ryan Field during my senior season. With Ohio State on the home slate, it’s going to take the addition of one of these two high-level transfer QBs at the very least to get NU back to that level, so that’s what I want.
Mac Stone: A healthy rest of the season for men’s and women’s basketball
Men’s basketball had their game against DePaul scrapped due to COVID-19 issues within the Blue Demons’ program, while women’s basketball had their matchup against Oregon shut down due to COVID-19 problems within their team. The Omicron variant spreads like wildfire, so we can only assume that more women’s basketball team members will get it. Luckily, it will very likely result in nothing more than mild illness, especially for those who are vaccinated. Obviously, an appearance in March Madness for both teams would be fantastic, but some things are bigger than sports. Here’s hoping the men’s team can remain healthy for the remainder of their year, while the women’s team is able to rest up and get well soon.
Jacob Brown: Women’s Basketball to make the tournament
Not enough can be said about the greatness of Veronica Burton, so I won’t try to. Instead, I’ll lay out the grim reality that right now, it seems unlikely that WBB will make the tournament. With a close loss to DePaul (a game in which the ‘Cats missed 10 free throws and lost by three) and bad losses to Texas A&M and a mediocre Pitt team that was missing its two best scorers, it hasn’t been a good start to the season for the Wildcats. With the team likely losing the Minnesota game due to covid (there aren’t many dates that it could be rescheduled for), missing valuable practice time due to the pandemic and currently having Sydney Wood out with what looks like a long term injury, the future looks grim.
The good news is that the team’s largest issues — making free throws and layups — should be simple fixes with practice. The bad news is that these issues have been here for a year already, and they haven’t improved. It’s going to take Burton going “screw you” mode a lot to make it happen, and for players like Caileigh Walsh, Mel Daley and Laya Hartman to mature and elevate on both sides of the floor, but I think this team has the potential to make a run, despite the stacked Big Ten. It’s just going to take some maturity out of the young players, and a top five player in the country showing what she can do.
Bradley Locker: For more students to appreciate and attend Northwestern sporting events
Sure, it may have felt challenging to bear through a 42-14 loss to Minnesota just a day before Halloween on a windy, brusque October afternoon at Ryan Field. But just a few weeks prior, the ‘Cats provided something that so many of us have been longing for for over a year: the ability to watch our beloved teams and favorite athletes perform in front of our very eyes. Now that COVID-19 is surging across the world and forcing the threat of lockdown once again, it has become that much more apparent how precious those moments are — yet how students were so hesitant to capitalize on them. Having Northwestern students actively seek out going to athletic events is no small task: students are constantly preoccupied with classes, clubs and other activities. But if more students integrated time to watch the national champion field hockey team by the Lakefront or cheer as Pete Nance catches a lob from Boo Buie, they would realize how neat it is to be in person as the Wildcats battle Big Ten and other foes for no cost at all — while also providing the energy and spirit that NU teams feed off of.
John Olsen: More even year magic (and less odd year struggles) for football
The assurance that the ‘Cats will be playing in the Big Ten Championship for the third time in five seasons in December 2022 would be the perfect gift. I don’t care how they get there, but as long as they get there, the issues with the 2021 squad can, for the most part, be looked past and forgotten. Beyond that, it would be fantastic if this program could become much more like Wisconsin when it comes to consistency from year to year. If the football team’s floor can become seven wins — as opposed to the current benchmark of three — and the ceiling stays where it is, I couldn’t ask for more from Fitz and company.
Sarah Effress: Veronica Burton wins Big Ten Player of the Year
There’s not much that can make up for the lack of recognition women’s basketball senior guard Veronica Burton has experienced throughout her tenure as one of Northwestern’s best ever. One of the few things I believe can make up for this a little bit, however, is if she was awarded with a much deserved Big Ten Player of the Year title at the conclusion of this season. Burton already has two consecutive Defensive POY’s under her belt and is well on her way to a third, but her impact on the offensive side of the ball should no longer go unrecognized. Sitting at per-game averages of 17.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 3.7 steals, Burton puts up all-around numbers that few can match, and she’s been doing it for years. So, this is my official plea to the Big Ten to make things right, and give the people what they want: Veronica Burton for B1G POY.
Michael Barthelemy: For MBB to make the tourney
There has been national media (really just Jon Rothstein) buzz around Chris Collins’ squad the past few seasons, but results have not panned out with the current core. With the emergence of Pete Nance as a star and impressive play from young players such as Casey Simmons, it appears this could be Northwestern’s shot at its second ever March Madness bid. The stacked conference schedule certainly makes this an uphill battle, but if the ‘Cats can finish around .500 and make a small run in the conference tournament, there is a chance Northwestern could be dancing. For as disappointing as the football season was, it would be thrilling to see both the men’s and women's basketball teams find success and enter postseason play.
Gavin Dorsey: A lacrosse national championship
My original wish was exactly the same as the one Michael had, so I’ll swing it over to the lakeside at Martin Stadium. Last season’s undefeated regular season and Big Ten title was so incredible for Northwestern, and the heartbreaking loss in the Final Four was such an unfortunate way to end a great season for the program. When Northwestern announced that several of its seniors would be coming back for a grad year, the idea of running it back seemed certainly plausible. That was, of course, until the news broke that Tewaaraton Award finalist Izzy Scane would miss the entirety of the 2022 season with injury. My hope is that the Wildcats can go on a “Braves-minus-Acuña”-like run and join the field hockey team as national champions.