On the court, the losses keep coming, but off the court, head coach Joe McKeown is racking up some impressive wins on the recruiting trail. Today, we learned that Class of 2013 four-star wing Nia Coffey (#10 in white in the video, I believe) verbally committed to the Wildcats. She joins point guard Christen Inman, also a four-star recruit, as the first two commits of the class.
Coffey, ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as the No. 43 prospect in the class, chose NU over Duke, Stanford, Harvard and Princeton. Those four "schools" are, as I'm sure you all know, notorious women's basketball factories with laughable academic standards, so it's nice to see Coffey value her education in making her decision. She is 6'0" lefty from Minneapolis, and according to scouting reports has good quickness but may need to work a bit on her outside shot.
Inman is a 5'9" point guard from Texas who verbally committed two weeks ago, choosing NU over Stanford, Vanderbilt, Rice and Texas. She's ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as the No. 55 prospect in the class and looks to have excellent slashing ability and good vision.
The Class of 2013 will have big shoes to fill, as the Wildcats will be looking to replace stars Kendall Hackney and Dannielle Diamant, along with Kate Popovec and Inesha Hale.
McKeown has really stepped up in recruiting and boosted the talent level in the program. This year's freshman class of Morgan Jones, Karly Roser and Alex Cohen was ranked the No. 14 class by ESPN, and while next year's class isn't so highly touted, it includes three very solid three-star recruits in wing Maggie Lyon, wing Lauren Douglas and center Christen Johnson. The 2013 class is off to a great start and could end up with NU in the top 10.
Meanwhile, back on the court, the Wildcats are struggling to stay NIT-eligible, having dropped two games this week to fall to 14-14 overall, 4-11 in the Big Ten. That stifled any momentum they might have gotten from their huge upset of No. 16 Nebraska last Thursday, and NU now has lost eight out of its last 10, spoiling what had looked to be a promising season.
On Monday, NU put up a stinker in a 69-57 loss at Illinois. All the familiar bugaboos plagued the Wildcats in this one: careless turnovers, porous defense, and bad shooting, compounded by poor shot selection. NU lost Karly Roser for a significant chunk of time due to injury in the game.
Fortunately, she would return to the lineup for last night's game against the surging Iowa Hawkeyes, but it didn't help, as NU lost, 70-63. The Hawkeyes buried the Wildcats from behind the arc, and while NU would rally late, it wasn't enough. Tailor Jones got the surprise start over her sister, Morgan, who has really struggled with her shot lately. Morgan played what I'm sure is a season-low 24 minutes and scored 8 points, though she had a team-high 8 rebounds.
So now all that's left in the regular season is a Senior Day home finale on Sunday against Michigan State. Before the game, NU will honor senior captains Allison Mocchi and Brittany Orban, whose season-ending injury six games in really hurt the Wildcats down the stretch. Tailor Jones will also be honored, even though she's technically a redshirt junior. Guess that means she's not coming back next year.
The Wildcats will need a win in their regular season finale to ensure at least a .500 record, if they lose in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. That would keep them eligible for the NIT for the third straight year. The NIT is a bit of a disappointment, especially after the great start, but considering that they graduated an All-American last year in Amy Jaeschke and then had to contend with a ridiculous assortment of injuries throughout the season, making it to the postseason is a pretty good accomplishment for this group. But they have to get there, first.