Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Standouts
March Madness is finally upon us! After a four-month regular season and conference championships, college basketball’s postseason tournament is just about underway for both the men’s and women’s sides. If you haven’t been paying attention to women’s basketball this season, you’re in luck as we’ve put together a tournament preview highlighting some of the potential standout players for this year’s tournament. Let’s get into it.
Katie Lou Samuelson – Junior – University of Connecticut
The UConn women’s basketball team completed its third undefeated regular season in the past five years, securing the number one overall seed in the process thanks largely to the play of guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson. The junior from Huntington Beach, CA, averaged 18.3 points per game and shot an unbelievable 49.0 percent from behind the three-point arc – which led the country in three-point shooting percentage. Samuelson scored 26 or more points on three separate occasions this year, and she will certainly be a key player for UConn, the team that almost everyone expects to the championship due to their pedigree.
Sabrina Ionescu – Sophomore – University of Oregon
After missing out on the NCAA tournament for 12 straight seasons, the Oregon Ducks have turned things around in the past two years – thanks largely to their sophomore guard, Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu was named an All-American by both ESPN and USA Today, and her play helped Oregon win the Pac-12 title and secure a number two seed. Ionescu’s numbers are eye-popping. She averaged 19.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game in 2017-18 and posted five triple-doubles. In addition to her triple-doubles, she posted eight games with over 25 points which includes her super-human effort in the Pac-12 title game where she scored 36 points on 14-24 shooting. Oregon was able to advance all the way to the Elite Eight in last year’s tournament and it’s not a stretch to believe that they could be playing late into March/April again this season thanks to Ionescu.
A’ja Wilson – Senior – University of South Carolina
Hot on the heels of the team’s National Championship in 2017, the South Carolina Gamecocks are once again poised for a deep run in the postseason thanks to senior forward A’ja Wilson. After leading the Gamecocks to their first ever National Championship last year, Wilson has elevated her play to another level in 2017-18. The South Carolina native averaged 22.9 points and 12.0 rebounds per game and put up a particularly amazing performance in a win over then #24 LSU. Wilson scored 27 points on 52.4 percent shooting and grabbed 24 rebounds en route to a seven-point victory. The three-time Southeastern Conference player of the year will have to keep up her superb play in order for South Carolina to repeat as back-to-back champions.
Teaira McCowan – Junior – Mississippi State, Victoria Vivians – Senior – Mississippi State
After losing in last year’s National Championship to South Carolina, Mississippi State has come back with a vengeance in 2017-18, posting a 32-1 record and securing a one seed in this year’s tournament. The Bulldogs were led by a dynamic duo of Teaira McCowan and Victoria Vivians. Vivians, who is a 6’1” guard from Carthage, MS, averaged 19.6 points per game and scored in double figures in all but one of the Bulldogs’ games this season. McCowan has been a fantastic low-post player this season for Mississippi State, averaging 18.7 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Both women have appeared on multiple All-American lists for this season and the duo should be able to power the Bulldogs into the later rounds of the tournament.
Megan Gustafson – Junior – University of Iowa
Despite the fact that the University of Iowa was only able to secure a six seed in this year’s big dance, they have one of the most exciting players to watch in junior forward Megan Gustafson. The 6’3” forward led all Division I players with a 25.3 points per game average. Her best performance of the year came in the team’s heartbreaking loss against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament where she broke the tournament record for points in a game with 48. Gustafson is an incredibly efficient shooter as she achieved a fantastic field goal percentage of 66.7 in her 29 games played this season.
(Cropped image courtesy of Eric Wong via Flickr.)