Lindsey Pulliam (left) was phenomenal for the Wildcats, who shared the 2020 Big Ten regular-season title with the Maryland Terrapins. | Photo by Tony Quinn/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Lindsey Pulliam, Abi Scheid and the Northwestern Wildcats defeated the then-No. 12 Maryland Terrapins by 23 points in their second game of Big Ten play on Dec. 31. Months later, Northwestern earned its first-ever share of the Big Ten regular-season title.
The NCAA isn’t releasing a bracket this year but at Swish Appeal we’ve decided to make one anyway, based on this formula created by our Zack Ward. Here’s a recap of one of the 64 teams who made the cut according to the Swish Appeal bracket:
No. 9 Northwestern Wildcats
The Wildcats (26-4, 16-2 Big Ten) had the best regular season in program history before the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Head coach Joe McKeown, who took over in 2008, was named Big Ten Coach of the Year after leading the team to a share of its first Big Ten regular-season title.
McKeown and company last went to the NCAA Tournament as seven-seed in 2015, which marked the program’s seventh NCAA Tournament appearance. This year would have been its eighth — and as a three-seed, no less, according to Swish Appeal’s bracket.
Saddened for our team and our five seniors. Difficult day for all those involved, but we understand the bigger picture. Thank you to all of our fans who made this team special and a @bigten champion! Go ‘Cats! pic.twitter.com/7iDlqKmhu2
— Joe McKeown (@Joe_McKeown700) March 13, 2020
Junior guard Lindsey Pulliam led the way to this unprecedented success, averaging 18.8 points per game en route to a First Team All-Big Ten selection. Her teammate Abi Scheid, a senior forward/center, also made the First Team after shooting 47.7 percent from beyond the arc with 73 makes. Scheid’s efficiency from deep was second in the nation and first among Power 5 players.
Scheid averaged 11.5 points per game, while sophomore guard Veronica Burton averaged 11.6 and won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Burton also made the conference’s Second Team and senior forward/center Abbie Wolf (11.3 points per game) was an honorable mention.
Northwestern improved drastically from last year when it was the WNIT runner-up. The Wildcats went 21-15 overall in 2018-19 and 9-9 in the Big Ten. They also went 8-8 on the road before improving to 10-1 this season. In 2019-20 their winning percentage away from home (.909) was actually better than their winning percentage at home (.875).
The Wildcats’ signature wins came against ranked teams in the No. 4 Maryland Terrapins (Dec. 31) and No. 20 Indiana Hoosiers (Jan. 16 in overtime). They went 2-3 against Top 25 teams with losses coming to the No. 15 DePaul Blue Demons (Dec. 1), No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes (Jan. 5) and Terrapins (Jan. 26), but the team boosted its resume with quality wins over the Marquette Golden Eagles (Nov. 14), Duke Blue Devils (Nov. 17), Boston College Eagles (Dec. 4), Purdue Boilermakers (Jan. 12), Michigan Wolverines (Jan. 30 and Feb. 13), Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Feb. 19) and Ohio State Buckeyes (Feb. 25), all of whom made the Swish Appeal bracket.
Highlights: Wildcats handle Maryland at home
The Wildcats finished with a disappointing loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals that prevented them from potentially working their way to a two-seed in our bracket. That will only put a chip on their shoulder heading into 2020-21, however.