By Kevin Sweeney
The Wildcats hit the road to begin a pivotal week in their season Thursday when they take on Michigan State in East Lansing. The Spartans are 11-7 and hold a 4-3 mark in Big Ten play. Here are three things to know about the matchup:
Northwestern enters play Thursday undefeated away from Welsh-Ryan Arena, a perfect 7-0 in road and neutral court games. However, few places are as difficult to win at as Michigan State: the Spartans are 8-0 this season in the friendly confines of Breslin Center and have won 26 of their last 27 games at home. The Wildcats haven’t won in East Lansing since December of 2014 and have won at MSU just once since 2000. Something has to give.
Senior forward Abi Scheid is playing the best basketball of her career in her final season in Evanston. Scheid currently ranks #1 in the Big Ten and 3rd nationally in 3-point shooting at a scorching 48% from deep. That mark is tops in the country for players over six feet tall. The Minnesota native has also raised her game on the glass, grabbing five or more rebounds in five consecutive games. As a result, she was named Big Ten Player of the Week this week, the first time a ‘Cat took home that honor since Nia Coffey in December 2016.
Northwestern has built quite the resume for March Madness, thanks to early conference wins over highly-ranked Maryland and Indiana clubs. ESPN’s latest bracketology has Northwestern in the field as a 5 seed, while High Post Hoops projects Northwestern as a 4 seed. The top 4 seeds host regionals.
Meanwhile, Michigan State sits on the outside looking in of most projections thanks in large part to a bad RPI. However, the Spartans are fresh off knocking off a talented Rutgers team on the road, and a win over Northwestern would do wonders in building their resume for March.