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Northwestern women’s basketball player review 2020-21: Veronica Burton

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The Backcourt Burglar strikes yet again.

Photo by Amit Mallik.

It is difficult to condense the magnitude of what Veronica Burton achieved this season into a simple player review. The junior not only garnered conference hardware, adding Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-Big Ten First Team to her resume, but she also reached the highly-touted 1,000 total point milestone and was named a finalist for the 2021 Naismith Defensive Women’s Player of the Year award.

Burton’s accolades are a physical representation of the unbounded talent she possessed as a keystone of Northwestern’s play on both ends of the court this season. Already recognized as a defensive powerhouse entering the year, Burton’s play in 2021 cemented her as a dangerous offensive threat, both capable in the paint and beyond the arc as her fourth and final year in purple looms ahead.

Stats

The following statistics are courtesy of herhoopstats.com.

Burton boasts an all-around phenomenal stat line. The guard rarely came off the court this season, playing almost 35 of 40 minutes each and every game. Additionally, she averaged a team-leading 16.2 points per contest with a season high of 27 against Purdue and an impressive 25 against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament — another reason not to overlook her massively improved offensive efficiency. If it was not evident that Burton was a complete team player all season, she also boasted an admirable 4.9 assists per game, placing her among the top five distributors in the conference and top 50 nationwide.

Of course, the Backcourt Burglar would not be the Backcourt Burglar without some impressive numbers on the defensive end of the floor. She finished as the nation’s leader in steals per game at 3.8 and accounted for 96 of Northwestern’s 287 steals recorded as a team this season (just about one-third). Burton also kept busy in the post, averaging 3.6 defensive rebounds per game, second only to Lindsay Pulliam. There is little in Burton’s stat-line that one can be disappointed about except for the fact that her dominance only gets to be enjoyed for one more year.

Shot Distribution

The following statistics are courtesy of herhoopstats.com.

Unsurprisingly, Burton finished with the second highest usage rate on the team, again second only to Pulliam. However, her scoring efficiency was even more impressive, scoring at an average of 1.09 points on every scoring attempt this season. Though her field-goal percentage is average at about 40% and her 2-point percentage just above that at about 47%, the guard still managed to average nearly 17 point games all season — a testament to her offensive productivity. She also has grown fond of pulling up from behind the arc with three pointers, which made up about 30% of her point-total.

Additionally, for a player who is often double teamed and faced with constant ball pressure from opponents, free throw efficiency is pivotal. Thankfully, this is an area where Burton has no problem excelling. The guard totes an impressive free throw rate of 32.2% and puts in nearly 80% of her attempts from the charity stripe. In sum, Burton can pretty much put the ball in the net from anywhere, whether it be with a signature left-handed drive, pulling up from beyond the arc or simply dropping in extra points when she is given the opportunity.

The Good

There wasn’t much more to expect defensively based on Burton’s play in years past, but what was anticipated was an improvement on the offensive side of the ball. Needless to say, she delivered. With Pulliam being successfully stagnated by many teams, Burton showed up and showed out in every situation. The fact of the matter is, there are simply too many impressive facets of Burton’s play to highlight just under this subheading. Sometimes the stats and the hardware speak for themselves.

The Bad

In keeping with Burton’s monster junior year, there is little bad to address. However, what could cause problems for the guard in the upcoming season is simply a lack of help due to Pulliam’s departure. Obviously, Burton has playmakers like Sydney Wood and Courtney Shaw to help her continue to run McKoewn’s game smoothly, but finding another partner in the backcourt is essential for her to not feel as though she must fill the hole both Pulliam and Jordan Hamilton are leaving behind.

The Bottom Line

There is little not to look forward to in terms of Burton’s final season. For the ‘Cats to remain a threat in a conference as competitive as the Big Ten has been the past two years, she will have to continue to play like the star she is. With Burton remaining the center of McKeown’s game-plan and with her teammates to contribute to their strengths, there is no reason that Burton should not continue to grow her reputation as one of the best players in the nation.