Will the ‘Cats be dancing?

What you need to know for Selection Sunday

By Ashley Tumpowsky

At 7 p.m. tonight, the NCAA Divisions I Women’s Basketball Championship Committee will decide which 68 teams get to go dancing in this year’s NCAA tournament. In addition to the teams that receive automatic bids from winning conference championships, the rest of the teams are selected based on various factors, including conference ranking, strength of schedule and top-tier wins.

This year, for the first time, the women’s tournament will follow a similar structure to that of the men’s, with eight teams playing in the “First Four” games to earn the final four spots in the 64-team bracket. These last eight spots are always very competitive and sometimes controversial, resulting in many teams anxiously waiting to see if their name gets called. This year, one of those teams is Northwestern. 

The Northwestern women’s basketball team ended the regular season with a record of 16-11. In the first round of the Big Ten tournament, the ‘Cats pulled off a win in a close game against Minnesota, led by star Veronica Burton’s 18 points and eight assists. But their run in the tourney did not go much farther. Burton’s 25 point performance was just not enough to beat a red-hot Iowa team during the second round, and the team fell to the Hawkeyes 72-59. 

Reflecting on the season, it’s clear that this team is right on the brink of making it to the tournament. Some of its notable wins include beating Iowa in January (although they lost the other two times they played) and beating then-No. 4 Michigan in February. The Michigan game was definitely their strongest performance of the year, with the ‘Cats taking down the Wolverines 71-69 in a game that went into double overtime. However, they also have some tough losses, including losing by 28 points to Maryland on Jan. 23. 

The interesting thing about Selection Sunday, though, is that nobody truly knows who will make the tournament until the committee officially announces its decision. So, although there are professional “Bracketology” experts, depending on which one you consult, you will find different information about who is projected to be the last four in or the last four out.

For instance, ESPN’s Charlie Creme predicts that Northwestern – along with Boston College, Depaul and UCLA – will be among the four best teams that do not make the cut for the tournament. By his estimations, Florida St, Villanova, Missouri St. and Dayton (teams also considered on the bubble) will notch the final four spots. On the other hand, reporter Autumn Johnson’s bracket prediction counts Northwestern in for one of those coveted last spots. 

So it’s safe to say that even the experts are unable to make an accurate prediction for what will occur on Selection Sunday. As a Northwestern fan and Veronica Burton enthusiast, I hope the team gets a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament because Burton deserves it. But we will just have to wait and see.