The NCAA Women’s Tournament is overloaded with talent

This year’s women’s tournament boasts one of the strongest collections of basketball talent gathered in one place.

This is an extraordinary state of affairs, considering that each of the 64 teams, all playing due to coronavirus restrictions in Texas, had to compete with the tension of a season affected by the pandemic, in addition to the usual challenges to reach the tournament. .

In a season of first-year stars, newcomers and elite talent across the board, there is no shortage of stories to watch.

In many ways, it was the season of the first-year student in women’s basketball. UCN’s Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark of Iowa have attracted much of the national attention.

They are now on the biggest stage in front of the biggest audience and are facing the toughest competition, and they are under the biggest pressure.

For Bueckers, pressure has always been part of her story. Since high school, she has been considered a star and asked to take a young UConn group along all season in ways that only the best players in the program’s history have had before.

Although Clark has become the leader of the country for Iowa, he is overshadowed by Bueckers’ greatness. On their side of the bracket, they are on an almost inevitable Sweet 16 collision course.

Before they reach the point, however, they must go through their first tournament matches.

So many of Iowa’s offenses run through Clark. In addition to her leading 26.7 points per game, she also averages 7.6 assists. Opposing defense is wary of her three-point shooting range, and she could also pick the defense apart with her passing. Clark should be up against Central Michigan, a fast, offensive team, on Sunday.

If she kept up the pace, she would become the second first year the country has achieved in a full season. Only former Delaware star – and current WNBA legend – Elena Delle Donne achieved the feat.

It will be a fun chance to see the first two freshmen, who previously played in Team USA’s u.16 and u.19 group, on the same day and in the first two rounds in action as they get closer to a potential comes. match and possibly a future rivalry.

That Maryland dominated offensively this season without star rookie Angel Reese says so much about how deep the Terrapins are.

Harvard transfer Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby, transfer from the Mississippi state, are working well with Ashley Owusu, first ten-year student of the year, to lead a powerful attack.

Reese, who broke bones in her foot earlier in the season but has been back for a few weeks and played well, gives the no. 2 Mounds even more offensive skill.

It should all touch their side of the bracket.

In the first three games of her collegiate career, Reese scored 17 points and 8.7 rebounds. It appears she is poised to become a dominant force and to follow in the footsteps of the now-second Owusu as a first-year stalwart of the Maryland offense.

Instead, she went down against Towson in early December and would have to undergo surgery for a foot fracture.

The Terps passed 21-2 anyway on their way to becoming the top seed in the Big Ten tournament, and Reese returned on February 23 ahead of schedule.

She gave a boost to the already elite offense. In her second game back, she scored 17 points and nine rebounds and scored 10 in the Northwestern Conference Championships.

On a larger stage, Reese can shine even brighter. After missing out on time, she has more to prove to the basketball world.

Many of the teams that are expected to make an upset bid will get a chance early. Florida Gulf Coast has a chance against Michigan on Sunday in what many expect to be one of the most fascinating low seed games.

It also means the chance to try second star Kierstan Bell to take the Eagles on a jog. The 6-foot-1 Bell was fifth in the country with 24.3 points per game and was the first player in Atlantic Sun to score Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Bell is a transfer from the state of Ohio and knows the big stage. After her first-year season, she entered the transfer portal and ended up at FGCU

“Kierstan had one of the best seasons of all women’s college basketball players this year,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said after Bell was named a second-team American. “If there is someone with the size and athleticism to help defend there, it obviously helps, but I think we will always need more than just one-on-one in the post.”

In 26 games, she became the first player in program history to have a 20-20 game, and the first to score 600 points in a season.

The pandemic kept her out of the NCAA tournament a year ago. Now basketball fans will see how dominant she can be, and she’s given the chance to fend off her old school rival – Michigan – in the process.

Three seniors in Georgia are already pursuing master’s degrees. One of them is San Antonio-born Gabby Connally, who plays at home in the national tournament.

“I’m very excited to be back home,” Connally told reporters earlier this week. “I know there are some friends and family who will see me in person.”

This is the first tournament for the Bulldogs since 2018. They are expected to finish ninth in the SEC. Instead, they selected a number 3 for the first time since 2007. Their last Final Four trip took place in 1999.

Repeating the success of long ago will be a challenge with Stanford and Louisville.

Connally, however, has a little extra motivation.

The senior rolled her ankle last Friday and was on crutches thereafter. She is still expected to play in the first game against Drexel on Monday.

She said earlier this week that the injury “is not going to stop me from playing” in front of a home crowd – all 17 percent admitted to the arena.

‘We want to bring [a national championship] home, and I know I keep it up, so the more I say it, the more positive the atmosphere in the air becomes, but we want to win a national championship, ‘Connally said.

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