College basketball is now just about three weeks away! Continuing with our women’s basketball preview series, we will take a look at Melannie Daley, a sophomore guard from Hastings, N.Y.
Who she is
Sophomore; point guard; 5-foot-11; Hastings, N.Y.
16.9 minutes per game; 6.5 points per game; 0.8 assists per game; 1.4 rebounds per game; 41 FG%; 12.5 3P% (on eight attempts); 64 FT%.
Lindsey Pulliam’s graduation following the 2020-21 season left a huge void at the guard spot next to Veronica Burton. That gave Daley a chance to earn big minutes right out of the gate during her first season in Evanston. She took advantage early in conference play, starting nine games. Her best game of the season came at an opportune time: a Jan. 6 road upset over then-No. 22 Iowa in which she dropped 22 points and six rebounds.
Late in the season, Daley’s minutes dipped as Joe McKeown gave most of the starting nods at the two to Lauryn Satterwhite down the stretch. For the most part, though, her role as one of the second unit’s offensive centerpieces remained the same. Daley established herself as a midrange scorer — a change of pace from Satterwhite’s high-volume shooting from beyond the arc. Now that the former team captain is gone, Daley has a good chance to regain her starting spot in the rotation and pick up where she left off or remain as a rotational piece behind Sydney Wood, whose return from injury will likely have her in the starting spot as well.
Trying to stand out by clogging passing lanes when a three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is at the other guard spot encapsulates the phrase “small fish in an ocean.” But that might be the best aspect of Daley’s game. Her 2.5% steal percentage ranked in the nation’s 79th percentile, per Her Hoop Stats. Daley’s knack for anticipating when guards will pick up their dribble and telegraph quick passes makes it impossible to believe she is only a sophomore right now.
The New York native is also a solid midrange shooter, as previously mentioned. Just check out her shooting chart, courtesy of CBB Analytics:
It’s clear that Daley took and made a large portion of her shots from inside the left corner. That meshed really well with Burton, whose finishing prowess forced help defenders to collapse on her in the paint and leave the corners open. Now that Daley may have to create for herself and function as a facilitator more often if McKeown slides her over to the point, it will be interesting to see if she can still get to her hot spots at the elbows and left baseline frequently.
The burden that comes with being a midrange-heavy player is having to maintain that success in the paint or beyond the arc to avoid being labeled as inefficient. It’s borderline sacrilegious to say this in DeMar DeRozan’s metro area of all places, but Daley’s lack of offensive production outside of her midrange game makes her an inefficient scorer.
She scored almost 90% of her points inside the arc last season, which was a higher clip than 98% of the NCAA. Yet she didn’t get to the rim that often. Daley’s free throw rate stood at a mere 5.4%, which was lower than all but 3% of players. It’s fair to wonder if that was a product of McKeown’s offense, which thrived off getting Burton into the paint for layups, kickouts or free throw trips. But Daley has to at least improve as a paint attacker to keep Northwestern’s offense running smoothly.
Coming into her second season, Daley may jump back into the starting lineup. At the very least, she should take on the same amount of playing time she held early last season.
It’s not a secret that Northwestern has lost most of its guard production from 2021-22 on both ends. Daley doesn’t have to replace all of it, but she’ll be tasked with guarding perimeter stars and carrying the scoring load with Jillian Brown and Laya Hartman. She showed flashes of stardom in her first year, and another gaping hole in Northwestern’s backcourt gives her a prime opportunity to build on it.