NCAA Women’s Preview
After a two-year hiatus, UConn is ready to reclaim the throne.
by Clay Kallam
Key players: Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart
The skinny: It’s just too easy to pick Baylor. And besides, the Huskies’ recruits, led by Stewart, are off the charts. By season’s end, the combination of experience and talent should help give UConn national title No. 8.
Key players: Brittney Griner, Odyssey Sims, Destiny Williams
The skinny: Yes, the Bears went 40-0. Yes, they return all their starters. And yes, they’re really, really good. But it’s a lot easier to get there than it is to stay there.
Key players: Chelsea Gray, Haley Peters, Elizabeth Williams
The skinny: The Blue Devils are very young, and they’re also extremely talented. There’s only one senior on the roster, and Joanne P. McCallie keeps bringing in elite recruits. Alexis Jones is the latest, so Duke haters, despair.
Key players: Bria Goss, A’dia Mathies, Samarie Walker
The skinny: So the Wildcats don’t shoot it very well, but their pressure defense forces turnover after turnover—at least against lesser teams. The problem is, to take the NCAA title, you have to win when the other team is too good to turn it over.
5. Penn State
Key players: Alex Bentley, Nikki Greene, Maggie Lucas
The skinny: It’s Year Five for Coquese Washington, and with her system and recruits in place, she’s ready to lead the Lady Lions to the Final Four. The weak Big Ten, though, may stall their development.
Key players: Chiney Ogwumike, Amber Orrange, Joslyn Tinkle
The skinny: When former star Nneka Ogwumike left for the WNBA, she not only took talent, she took inspiration. The Cardinal have just one senior in Tinkle, and she must not only elevate her play, but her leadership as well. At least Nneka’s younger sister is still around.
Key players: Bashaara Graves, Ariel Massengale, Meighan Simmons
The skinny: It’s impossible to know how much the tragic Pat Summitt scenario impacted last year’s Volunteers, but it says here it was a lot. There’s tons of talent, and many fewer distractions, so look for a step forward at UT under new coach Holly Warlick.
Key players: Laurin Mincy, Brene Moseley, Alyssa Thomas
The skinny: If Moseley, just a sophomore, can become an elite college point guard, it will be time to seriously fear the turtle. Thomas is one of the best players you’ve never heard of, and Mincy is no slouch either.
9. Notre Dame
Key players: Natalie Achonwa, Skylar Diggins, Jewell Loyd
The skinny: A horde of talented guards and wings will team with forward Achonwa to make life miserable for Irish opponents. Diggins will lead the way, but freshman Loyd will need to step up too.
Key players: Tiffany Clarke, Christina Foggie, Jasmine Lister
The skinny: Clarke goes just 6-0, but she needs to continue to get 7.2 rebounds a game for the Commodores to justify this ranking. And don’t feel bad—nobody else knows that Foggie averaged 17.7 ppg in the SEC last year either.
photo by Steve Slade