Women’s Basketball: 2022-23 Wildcat entrance survey


Daily file photo by Gabe Bider

Senior guard Veronica Burton drives down the court. Burton’s absence will be significant for the Cats in 2022-23, prompting the team to look toward program veterans and a dynamic underclassman cohort for leadership.

Charlotte Varnes and John Riker

Northwestern women’s basketball is entering 2022-23 ready to retool and reload. With recent program standouts Lindsey Pulliam and Veronica Burton both gone, the responsibility falls on program veterans Courtney Shaw and Sydney Wood and a group of dynamic underclassmen to bring the Wildcats back to March Madness.

We polled our beat writers about where NU will go this season. 

  1. Veronica Burton was central to the program’s success over the past few seasons. With Burton now in the WNBA, who will the Wildcats turn to as leaders on the court?Charlotte: Like coach Joe McKeown told The Daily, there’s no replacing a player like Burton. But her departure paves the way for a big season for sophomore guard Jillian Brown, who logged 25 starts during her first year in Evanston. She ranked among the top performers in numerous statistical categories last season, finishing third in minutes played and tying for second in made three-pointers. Look to Brown for a breakout season. 

    John: I’ll go with graduate student guard/forward Sydney Wood here. Entering her fifth season in Evanston, Wood brings both talent and experience to the Cats lineup and will be looking to make up for lost time after playing just four games last season. When on the court, the Marylander has been electric, averaging over 10 points per game on better than 50 percent shooting from the field with 65 steals in 2020-21. With departures in the lineup and coaching staff, Wood’s veteran presence will be crucial.

  2. What non-conference matchup are you most excited for?Charlotte: Notre Dame. It’s going to be one of the premier matchups among both the men’s and women’s teams this season. The Fighting Irish enter the 2022 campaign ranked No. 9 nationally, posing a significant test early on for the Cats. Will underclassmen step up? Can NU hang with Notre Dame star Olivia Miles? That remains to be seen. Regardless of whether it’s a win or a loss, it’s going to reveal a lot about the Cats. 

    John: Oregon. The Michael Schill revenge game! Well, I don’t know if it will be advertised that way by NU’s marketing team, but even the Cats’ president himself has highlighted the matchup between his current and former universities as a key early season matchup. Oregon is one of the sports’ powerhouses, and while NU hasn’t established itself as a top-tier program, the Ducks will give the Cats a good sense of where they stand in the NCAA hierarchy. I’m not counting on this being close, but I expect to watch some fun storylines and an elite uniform matchup.

  3. What is the most important storyline of the Cats’ 22-23 campaign?

Charlotte: Underclassmen power. There’s a significant youth movement on this team, which features five sophomores and three freshmen. Like I said earlier, Brown, a second-year, could figure to play a huge role this season in Burton’s absence. There’s a number of other underclassmen who could fill in as well. Sophomore guard Melannie Daley may figure in defensively after ranking third on the team in steals in 2021-22. The Cats could get more use out of sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh, who also showed flashes of promise last season. There’s certainly an opening for players to become the star of this team – and a talented crew of underclassmen could seize the moment. 

John: Developing the next wave of talent. The major contributors from 2020 Big Ten title-winning squad have gone their separate ways, leaving McKeown to prove that NU can be a Big Ten contender year-in and year-out with an unproven cast of players. That’s life for any team in college sports, but watching top-ten WNBA draft pick Veronica Burton leave town is especially crushing for Cats’ fans. Her loss puts the program’s trajectory in question, and it will take some of NU’s younger players to make major strides for the Cats to stay in the NCAA tournament mix.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @JhnRiker

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