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ROUNDTABLE: Northwestern women’s basketball season predictions

Even without VB12, the staff predicts a similar record to last year for the ‘Cats.

Northwestern Wildcats guard Jillian Brown (C) goes to the... Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Northwestern women’s basketball is coming off a solid 2021-22 season, in which it just missed out on the NCAA Tournament despite going 17-12 overall and 8-8 in conference play. However, there’s one small problem now: Veronica Burton is gone. How significant will that loss be for Joe McKeown’s squad, and can younger players such as Jillian Brown and Caileigh Walsh take big leaps? Inside NU’s staff determines how that will impact NU’s record this year.

Gavin Dorsey: 16-13 (9-9 B1G)

This year’s record is entirely dependent on how the young players step up for Joe McKeown. Post-Veronica Burton, there’s no real leader nor identity yet on the team, and this will be a great opportunity for Courtney Shaw and some of the other veterans to help these young budding stars develop. Look for Jillian Brown to be a huge piece of the Wildcats’ offense this season, as she really turned up her game toward the end of the year after a slow start.

Bradley Locker: 17-12 (10-8 B1G)

I was somewhat surprised to have prognosticated this good of a record given the questions surrounding how Joe McKeown’s younger players, namely Jillian Brown, Melannie Daley and Caileigh Walsh, will step into larger roles without Veronica Burton. It’s also important to consider that NU had some uncharacteristically bad losses (e.g., at Minnesota, at Nebraska) to close out a relatively strong 2021-22 — outcomes that carried over into a second-round exit in the Big Ten Tournament. Nevertheless, the Wildcats’ schedule is rather favorable in facing bottom-feeders Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota twice. Maintaining last year’s pace in the first year without VB12 would be an overall boon.

Iggy Dowling: 16-13 (9-9 B1G)

This is a younger team, for sure, but a talented one. The non-conference schedule looks much tougher than last season, with No. 20 Oregon and No. 9 Notre Dame on Northwestern’s slate. Going from Veronica Burton to a floor general combination of Kaylah Rainey and Jillian Brown will be a massive adjustment that the ‘Cats will struggle with early on. But ultimately, NU has enough wing scorers to have a chance to catch fire on any given night and pull off some Big Ten upsets as the season progresses. It won’t be enough to go dancing, but it will be an impressive start to the post-Burton era.

John Olsen: 16-13 (10-8 B1G)

My entire rationale here is the ‘Cats will struggle early in the year without Veronica Burton, hence a 6-5 non-conference record. However, once they get into January, everyone should be comfortable in their expanded roles and better results will follow. Whether a post-New Year’s surge will be enough to them into the NCAA Tournament is unclear, but a winning record in conference play would be a great achievement, especially in a transitional year.

Patrick Winograd: 18-11 (10-8 B1G)

I believe Northwestern might start out shaky, but will win some close games and end up with an 8-3 record in the non-conference schedule. Even without Veronica Burton, I think the ‘Cats can have a winning record in the Big Ten this season due to a relatively easy schedule. If this prediction is accurate, the ‘Cats would have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

Adam Beck: 16-13 (9-9 B1G)

I’m really excited to see how this team can transition without Veronica Burton. Look for players like Caileigh Walsh and Jillian Brown to find their groove putting the ball in the basket as the ‘Cats look for new ways to score the rock. Although talented, this team is still young and isn’t apt to consistently compete with powerhouses like Iowa, Ohio State or Indiana. With that said, the ‘Cats will finish somewhere in the middle of the Big Ten with a .500 conference record, as they use this season to find their Veronica Burton-less identity.

Ethan Segall: 15-14 (8-10 B1G)

The new era of Northwestern basketball will look incredibly different without Veronica Burton but I have faith in the ‘Cats’ nucleus and the strong culture Joe McKeown has built in Evanston. With Oregon and Notre Dame in the first three games of the season, I will be delightfully willing to admit that my prediction for the season was not optimistic enough should Northwestern pull off the upsets.

Zain Bando: 19-10 (10-8 B1G)

While the storyline of women’s college hoops going into the 2022-23 season isn’t solely from the Big Ten, Northwestern has a lot to prove after losing its superstar, Veronica Burton, to the WNBA. Despite that, the Wildcats do return some key pieces to the starting rotation that will hopefully pay off in the long run. Enter Sydney Wood, who is back after a year-long absence due to injury, along with Shaw, who led the team in rebounds during the 2021 season. She also contributed with 20 points and 11 rebounds in a late-season win against Illinois, re-emphasizing that she’s still one of the best the conference has to offer. While the Big Ten isn’t a cakewalk, expect the Wildcats to be right there with Iowa and Indiana for a regular season title shot.