Jono Zarrilli – 20-10 (7-9 B1G), no postseason wins
In many ways, this team is reminiscent of last year’s men’s team: they are young, have a favorable schedule and are considered a longshot for the NCAA tournament. The difference, though, is that this team lacks a Bryant McIntosh, or, more appropriately, a Nia Coffey. The door is open for senior guard Lydia Rohde or sophomore forward Abi Scheid to lead the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year drought, but in all likelihood, they are still at least a year away.
Max Lee – 15-15 (7-9 B1G), no postseason wins
Northwestern will be hard-pressed to fill the void left by departing star player and No. 5 pick in the WNBA draft, Nia Coffey, as well as senior leaders Ashley Deary and Christen Inman. Despite a surprisingly strong recruiting class coming in (ranked No. 17 in the nation by ESPN), the youth of the team at guard and dearth of talent at forward left by the departure of starting forwards Allie Tuttle and Coffey. This team has potential if coach Joe McKeown can pull together his young players and the team builds chemistry quickly – but that’s a big if. The team should together a mediocre .500 season, and the young players make strides in the right direction but can’t make any postseason noise. Watch out for the ‘Cats in the years to come, though.
Meg Pisarczyk – 13-17 (5-11 B1G), no postseason wins
After losing Nia Coffey, Ashley Deary and Christen Inman, the Wildcats will spend this season rebuilding, which won’t translate into a postseason appearance. The bright spots for this year’s team will be senior Lydia Rohde and sophomore Abi Scheid, who have experience running the floor and playing in Big Ten games.
Notably, first years Jordan Hamilton and Lindsey Pulliam will also be a key part of Northwestern’s season. They were both top-100 recruits and huge long-term gets for the program, but at the end of the day lack experience competing against the bigger and faster players found throughout the Big Ten. They might make some small noise, but it’s doubtful that two new teammates will be able to push Northwestern to a dominant position in the conference.
On top of these structural factors stacked against the ‘Cats, the women’s team will be playing in the Evanston Township High School gym, which isn’t exactly an exciting venue. Hopefully they can still draw a crowd to their home games, but between a lackluster game atmosphere and likely mediocre season, this might be a tough year for the women’s program.
Duncan Agnew – 12-19 (3-15 B1G), no postseason wins
It will be a down year for the Wildcats. After losing phenom Nia Coffey—who averaged 20 points per game and accounted for nearly a third of the team’s offense in every contest—and three other top scorers to graduation, head coach Joe McKeown enters a rebuilding year. Seniors Lydia Rohde and Oceana Hamilton will lead a young Northwestern roster that features eight freshmen and sophomores, but the Wildcats won’t be able to hang with teams like Maryland, Michigan and Purdue. In the end, McKeown will focus on giving newcomers chances to develop their skills as Northwestern uses this season as an opportunity to build chemistry for future years.
Trevor Lystad – 13-18 (5-11 B1G), no postseason wins
The post-Nia Coffey world is a scary one. Although sophomore Abi Scheid and senior Lydia Rohde could have breakout years, it’s going to be tough to replace Coffey’s production, which wasn’t even enough to get them to the tournament last year. McKeown has expressed a willingness to toss his first-year players into the deep end, so expect Jordan Hamilton and Lindsey Pulliam to struggle a bit, at least at first. The future might be bright for this team, but fans will have to “trust the process” for at least a year.