In case you've been living under a rock for the past three months, Northwestern women's basketball has turned an NIT championship game appearance into a potentially-historic season with a shot at hosting an NCAA tournament regional. With a starting five playing championship-caliber ball as of late, NBN Sports answers which of the Wildcats' many stars is the squad's x-factor entering February and March.
Jono Zarrilli, Assistant Sports Editor
Northwestern women’s basketball has the pedigree and the potential to make some noise in this year’s NCAA Tournament. No, they aren’t on the level of South Carolina, Baylor, or UCONN, but they do have the combination of talent and depth that goes a long way in March. Plus, barring any egregious losses over the final month of the regular season, they are likely to snag a top 4 seed.
The X-Factor to postseason success will be Abbie Wolf. The senior from Connecticut has solid raw numbers: she is averaging 11.5 ppg, 6.9 rebounds, and has accumulated 26 blocks in 20 games. She also has carried Northwestern to multiple wins this season. The best example is January 12 against Purdue, when Wolf scored a career-high 24 points, a season-high 11 rebounds, and a mind-boggling 5 blocks in a 5-point win. Another is when she recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds in an overtime win at Marquette.
Wolf also provides a veteran presence in the locker room and is loved by her teammates. While Pulliam and Burton will grab most of the headlines, Northwestern would not be a ranked team without Wolf.
Shreyas Iyer, Sports Editor
The Northwestern women are well on their way to hosting a NCAA Tournament regional, especially given that they can look at their frontloaded schedule in the rearview mirror. With no games against ranked opponents coming up, the ‘Cats can afford to flex their muscle against some weaker Big Ten competition.
With that said, aside from mainstays Pulliam and Burton, the ‘Cats have a solid core that flies under the radar when discussing the most pivotal players on the team. Northwestern’s dominance this season can’t be explained without mentioning forward Abi Scheid. The senior is second on the team with 11.7 ppg and stretches the floor the way no other big on Northwestern’s roster can with a 47.5% three-point clip. She was quiet in road losses against DePaul and Maryland, scoring a combined 8 points off 3-9 shooting, but has the potential to take over games as she did against Penn State.
The ‘Cats will likely stumble a couple times entering March and April, but their nucleus has proven that they will be a tough out no matter the competition. A floor-spacer in Scheid can make all the difference down the line.
Jacob Munoz, Sports Editor
Women’s basketball this season has too many good storylines to follow. You can talk about how Lindsey Pulliam is one of the nation’s leading scorers, you can mention how the road toward getting ranked by the Associated Press was way too long, or you can discuss what it means to be a TikTok star.
But whatever angle you choose, make sure you acknowledge the presence of the senior leadership on the court. The team’s most impactful four-year players are its two starters, but of the Abbies—or Abis—only one can describe themselves as the Big Bad Wolf. And as the team’s main center, when she gets momentum going it’s likely bad news for the opposition.
For as good as Abbie Wolf has shown to be this season, averaging about 11.5 points and 7 rebounds a game, there are some hiccups. Although Wolf has scored less than 10 points only five times this season, in those games she shot a combined 7-for-24, and the Wildcats eked out two close wins and suffered two of their three Ls. When the 6’4” big contributes not only by rebounding but scoring, the team is generally in a good spot.
Jack McKessey, Staff Writer
Veronica Burton is the x-factor for this women’s team to make a deep postseason run both this year and beyond. As a sophomore, Burton leads the team in assists, steals and defensive rebounds, and is fourth in points scored behind only seniors Scheid and Wolf and junior standout Lindsey Pulliam. At the same time, despite the fact that she leads the team in turnovers, she leads the entire Big Ten with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.6. The main focus for Burton should be her field goal percentage. Even with her spot on the team’s total points leaderboard, she’s eighth on the team in shooting percentage. If she starts sinking more of the shots she’s taking, she could become an absolute offensive, point-scoring monster. Her ability
to make plays is unquestionable and her skills on both sides of the court make her my pick for the x-factor of the team.
Jordan Landsberg, Staff Writer
The Northwestern Wildcats Women’s Basketball team is having a terrific season with a blazing 17-3 record, and they can thank Lindsey Pulliam for a lot of their success. Pulliam, a junior, is absolutely their biggest X-Factor towards a deep postseason run. Lindsey has been a constant force on the court this season, as she leads the ‘Cats in scoring with 18.6 points per game.
In a statement upset win on New Year’s Eve over the then-ranked No. 12 Maryland Terrapins, Lindsey Pulliam absolutely dominated. She scored 24 points to go along with seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals. As she has done throughout the season, Lindsey showcased her talent and showed us why she is one of the best players in the Big Ten. However, this game in particular showed us something else; Lindsey Pulliam is capable of playing well against top opponents, which is something that Northwestern needs if they want to make it far. I spoke with Abi Schied, the team’s starting center, who told me that Pulliam is the strength the team needs to make it far. With the Wildcats coming off of an upsetting loss, look for Pulliam and Northwestern bounce back against Michigan.
Yurui Wu, Staff Writer
Senior guard Byrdy Galernik may be a surprising force off the bench in the postseason. Despite Galernik’s relative lack of playing time — she averages only 8.6 minutes for the first 20 games, which is the lowest since her first year in Evanston — the Toledo, OH native has provided offensive firepower when the team has needed it. In late November, when she earned significant minute increases because of Jordan Hamilton’s absence, she averaged 10.2 points in a five game stretch highlighted by a 16-point performance against then-16th ranked DePaul on December 1st. Her contributions off the bench have drawn comparisons to NBA legend and fellow Ohioan John Havelicek from coach Joe McKeown.
Galernik’s scoring ability, as well as her experience, may come in handy in tough situations in the postseason, particularly if the team doesn’t have a full roster due to injury. Although she hasn’t had consistent action time as of late, she is notably the most reliable player on the free throw line for the Wildcats. Galernik has made all 10 of her free throws this season after making 92% of the shots on the foul line last year. In a late game situation when opponents need to foul, McKeown may call on Galernik to make those key free throws, as he did in the last minute against Purdue on January 12th. In a close game in the postseason, a good free throw shooter may just be enough to alter the result.
Coop Daley, Staff Writer
This team is such a machine that’s dependent on so many cogs; Abbie Wolf in the paint, Lindsay Pulliam from downtown, and other role players that have all contributed to deep, gritty wins. However, there’s no doubt that the undisputed leader in the locker room is Abi Scheid.
The first reason why is obvious: Scheid is one of the best players in this program’s history. She’s just crossed 1000 points, and with the team now in territory that none of these players have ever seen, she has a chance to make a permanent mark in the tournament, and, as a senior, it would be the perfect way to cap off her collegiate career.
The second reason why is because she plays as if this isn’t a given. Scheid goes out everyday and plays like she’s fighting to make the team: if they ask her to shoot, she shoots; if they ask her to rebound, she rebounds. She sets a precedent for the other players to follow, and actively wants to engage them on plays.
If the ’Cats see success in March, it’ll be because not just because of her play, but for her love for this team and this school.