The Wildcats tip off their season on Friday night at Chicago State. Before the season gets underway, our staff gives their predictions for the upcoming season.
Matt McHugh (@mattmcsports27) 15-15 overall, 7-9 B1G
Despite losing five seniors, this team has enough to compete in the middle of the pack of a mediocre Big Ten. Abi Scheid, Amber Jamison and Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah all look improved, and with two top-100 recruits in the fold you can start to see a solid young core developing. They’re going to have ups and downs, but the early returns on this program’s rebuild could be promising.
Player to watch: Linsdey Pulliam
She likes to shoot, and she’s going to have that opportunity right away this season. One of the biggest questions coming into this season is who will carry the scoring burden–Pulliam has the talent and the mindset to make it happen.
Austin Miller (@austin_james906): 17-13 overall, 8-8 B1G
Replacing 5 seniors is really hard. Luckily for Northwestern women’s basketball, they bring in a highly touted recruiting class, and have been handed a favorable schedule this year. The Big Ten will continue to struggle, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility for the ‘Cats to open the conference season with 7 straight wins before the vaunted Maryland Terrapins come to town. The ‘Cats will suffer some growing pains, as all young teams do, but another season above .500 should be on the cards for Joe McKeown’s squad in 2017-18.
Player to Watch: Abi Scheid, F
Scheid impressed in a limited role as a freshman last year. Now, with the departures of Nia Coffey, Christen Inman, and Ashley Deary, she’ll be responsible for more of the offensive load this season. If she can score in the high double digits, it could go a long way towards putting Northwestern over the .500 mark.
Sam Brief (@sambrief): 16-15 (6-10 B1G):
The losses of Coffey, Inman, Deary and Douglas hurt, they certainly do. Accordingly, there will be a drop-off this year. But Jordan Hamilton is the real deal, and players like Amber Jamison, Lydia Rhode and Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah will make this team intriguing this year.
Player to watch: Amber Jamison. She showed flashes of greatness last season. With a little polishing, she can be the offensive star that Northwestern desperately needs this year.
Amit Mallik (@amitmallik): 16-14 (6-10)
It’s a transition year for the Wildcats, with the departure of proven winners in Nia Coffey, Ashley Deary, Christen Inman and Lauren Douglas. The Wildcats replace that talent with a highly touted recruiting class, and Jordan Hamilton and Lindsey Pulliam will wow fans with their offensive polish. The Wildcats won’t be an elite team by any stretch of the imagination, but they shouldn’t be near the cellar of the conference either. The goal for this team should be player development, and the shooting and defense of capable players like Amber Jamison, Abi Scheid and Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah (less so shooting and more so rebounding) are the key areas to watch. It would be great for this team to finish over .500 overall.
Player to watch: Abbie Wolf
If the Wildcats want to play a slower brand of inside-out basketball, their bigs have to become capable players in the post for the spacing to work. Abbie Wolf has the tools to become a dominant Big Ten center, but she needs to put them all together this season.
Will Greer (@WillCGreer95): 16-14 (7-9 Big Ten)
The Wildcats will undoubtedly struggle early as the team meshes and finds a new identity without its three graduated captains from last year, but the ‘Cats will find their groove in conference play and squeak into the WNIT.
Player to Watch: Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah. Northwestern will need some sort of offensive production from the junior, as well as her usual dose of phenomenal rebounding, to score enough points to win.
Ben Krieger (@TheBenKrieger): 15-15 (5-11)
The Wildcats feel the aftershock from the graduation of Nia Coffey, Ashley Deary, Christen Inman, and Lauren Douglas, dropping from eight conference wins last year to five this year. The underclassmen impress and the team demonstrates plenty of upside and hope for the future, but in the end Northwestern is unable to beat more experienced Big Ten competition on a consistent basis.
Player to watch: Abi Scheid
On a team that lost its top four scorers from 2016-2017, someone has to step in and put points on the board. One of the leading contenders to fill that role this year is Scheid, a sophomore forward who averaged 5.0 points in 19.7 minutes per game last year. Scheid has the size and shooting stroke to contribute both on the block and from three-point range, but she was not efficient (just 5-for-14 shooting) in the team’s exhibition game against UMSL. Scheid emerging as a go-to scoring threat would mean a lot for the team trying to avoid the step back that often comes after program-changing players graduate.
Fredrick Bugyei: 14-16 (5-11 B1G)
When you lose your top four scorers and your most decorated class in history, there is going to be some turnover and struggle. The Cats’ may struggle early on in the non-conference, but will have several games that are very winnable. Conference play will highlight the ‘cats youth but as the team starts to gel we will see this pick up a couple of surprising wins.
Player to watch: Brydy Galernik.
Byrdy is a player who didn’t receive a lot of playing time but could be vital to stabilizing the young ‘Cats backcourt. She will receive much more playing time and could be placed in a two point guard set up with Jordan Hamilton. If she can be more aggressive on the offensive end and display a more consistent shot, then she will find a spot in the guard rotation.
Ari Levin: 17-13 (6-10 B1G)
The losses Northwestern suffered this season can’t be overstated. It’s going to be very hard for them to recover. But they still have a talented Freshman class, which should help them stay competitive. They’ll be well off if Amber Jamison lives up to the potential she flashed at times last season, and if Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah can develop into a starter. A relatively weak early-season schedule should help the Wildcats gain confidence and establish a rhythm. Still, Nia Coffey is a massive loss, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team flail in her absence.
Player to watch: Lindsey Pulliam
She wears #10 (same as Coffey) which is definitely a good sign. But I think a better comparison for Pulliam is Christen Inman, a guard who’s going to take a lot of shots from all over the court. She put up 14 shots in the exhibition match, only making two of them. Hopefully for Northwestern that rate improves over the season
Noah Coffman (@coffman_noah): 13-17 (4-12)
One of the youngest teams in the Big Ten, Northwestern will return just 17 points per game of scoring from last year’s 20-11 squad. Serious regression is to be expected, and while this team will almost certainly struggle this year, there is certainly hope for the future.
Player to watch: Jordan Hamilton.
A lot of that hope comes in the form of Jordan Hamilton. The highly-touted freshman point guard looked good in the exhibition game against UMSL, showing off her considerable playmaking ability. She will go through growing pains this year, as most freshmen do, but Hamilton will prove to be a key bright spot in an overall forgettable season.
Jake Riepma (@Jake_Riepma): 19-11 (10-6 B1G)
The ‘Cats will have their hands full replacing the offensive production from a year ago, but I believe Coach Joe McKeown will have this team clicking on all cylinders and winning the close games through the grueling Big 10 schedule.
Player to watch: Abi Scheid.
I look at Scheid to build off her fantastic first year and play even more of a prominent role this season.
Parker Johnson: 17-13 (6-10 B1G)
Northwestern will definitely struggle this year with the loss of all-B1G seniors Ashley Deary and Nia Coffey, the latter of whom was the No. 5 pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft. Much like the men’s team, the women’s team will also struggle to deal with the limbo of playing in a new home arena as well. The most important variable for the ‘Cats will be the performance of their four first year players, two of whom come from the ESPN top 100. If the first years can step up for this inexperienced team, the ‘Cats could find success in the middle of a top heavy Big Ten.
Player to watch: Abi Scheid.
The sophomore will have big shoes to fill in the wake of Nia Coffey’s departure. Nobody expects her to be close to matching Coffey’s output, but if Scheid can rebound better than last season (3.6 rpg in 19.6 mpg) and knock down her threes (2-7 in the exhibition game against Missouri-Saint Louis), she will lead Northwestern to a solid conference record.
Ryan Coleman: 20-10
Well I think that the Women’s team will be 20-10 in regular season. It will be tough to replace the three seniors , Nia Coffey, Ashley Deary, and Christen Inman. But their recruits for this year are the right positions to replace the gaps created by the seniors departure. With two top 100 recruits in the country and the 17th best recruiting class in the country, I believe they will have a similar season to last year however facing off against teams such as Syracuse, Maryland, Purdue, and Indiana will lead to some difficult match-ups.