Northwestern’s women’s basketball (11-3, 9-3 BIG) started the new year off poorly but, 14 games into the season, is back on the right track. Northwestern has won seven of its last eight games and is sitting just one game out of first place in the Big Ten.
The ‘Cats suffered a close defeat at the hands of Nebraska on December 31 and then returned home three days later, only to be blown out by a sharpshooting Michigan team. But these early season losses didn’t weigh on Joe McKeown’s squad. Northwestern proceeded to pick up commanding victories against Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State and Illinois.
And if not for a terrible fourth quarter against Indiana, the ‘Cats may have beaten the Hoosier and extended their winning streak. Nevertheless, the team followed that loss with hard-fought wins against Iowa, eleventh-ranked Ohio State and Michigan State.
With six games remaining — and only two against ranked teams — that ‘Cats are very much in contention for a Big Ten title and top-four NCAA tournament seed. Here’s a look at where the experts predict Northwestern to land in March.
Having fallen back to the seventh seed after their two-game slide back in January, the ‘Cats have clawed their way back into the five hole. According to Creme’s 64-team bracket, Northwestern would play the Delaware Blue Hens, the projected winner of the Colonial Athletic Association. In total, Creme projects seven Big Ten teams to make the tournament, with Maryland receiving the highest seed (No. 2) and Rutgers receiving the lowest (No. 10).
Interestingly, in this iteration of Creme’s bracketology, he also created 48 team and 16 team brackets to emulate scenarios in which the NCAA condensed the tournament. Each team retained its original seed but for the 48 team bracket, only top 12 seeds were considered, and for the 16 team bracket, only top 4 seeds.
The ‘Cats remained a five seed in Creme’s 48 team bracket but would instead play the twelfth-seeded Idaho State Bengals from the Big Sky Conference. With a win, Northwestern would then play the fourth-seeded Oregon Ducks, who would have received a bye.
Unfortunately, the ‘Cats would be kept out of a 16 team bracket as of now. Maryland, Michigan and Indiana would represent the Big Ten in this compressed format.
Northwestern finds itself as the sixth seed in CSM’s bracket with a projected matchup with the Seton Hall Pirates, who are currently second in the Big East. A win there would pit the ‘Cats against the winner of Georgia and Idaho State.
Only six Big Ten teams earned bids in this projection, with Rutgers failing to make this bracket. Maryland (two seed), Michigan (three seed), Indiana (four seed) and Northwestern all seem to be in a good position to make the tournament, while Iowa (seven seed) and Michigan State (nine seed) probably need a few more quality wins to solidify their spot.
FanSided’s High Post Hoops and RealTimeRPI.com have yet to release projected brackets for this season.
Over Northwestern’s last six games, it’ll play two struggling teams (Wisconsin and Illinois), two solid teams (Nebraska and Rutgers), and two great teams (No. 12 Ohio State and No. 9 Maryland). As long as it wins more than it loses, the ‘Cats can hold onto their tournament position or perhaps even move up. Without any regional tournament sites this year, there isn’t much of an advantage having a top-four seed, but the way the ‘Cats are playing, it’s certainly an achievable goal.