It’s time to dance.
As the March Madness tournament quickly approaches, the new 68-team bracket is the first of its kind on the women's side, which means there are more teams, more players, more Cinderella stories, and more bracket busters. Here are the top players and teams to watch at this year’s tournament.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Caitlin Clark: Iowa
We have heard her name all year. Caitlin Clark is a BEAST. The guard for the Iowa Hawkeyes has garnered comparisons to Steph Curry for her perimeter shooting skills. Not only can Clark knock down threes, but she’s been averaging 27 points in her sophomore season, which leads all of Division I players. Once Clark gets hot, it’s hard to contain her. The Hawkeyes are the No. 2 seed in the Greensboro regional and will take on Illinois State in the first round.
For more information on Clark, check out this GoodSport article.
Aliyah Boston: South Carolina
A member of a stacked Gamecocks team, Aliyah Boston is a player who is solid on both ends of the floor. Boston can lock down defensively and grab rebounds in the air. The extensive list of accomplishments that the junior already has includes being in the record book for South Carolina, the SEC, and the NCAA. Boston and the Gamecocks, coached by the legendary Dawn Staley, will not go down without a fight, as they lost in the Final Four at last year’s tournament by one point to the eventual champions Stanford. South Carolina will go into March Madness with the No. 1 overall seed.
NaLyssa Smith: Baylor
Projected to go in the top picks for the upcoming WNBA draft, NaLyssa Smith is one of Baylor’s best offensive gems. Smith averages over 20 points a game and is the reigning Wade Trophy winner, awarded to the best upperclassmen in women’s basketball. Standing tall at 6’2”, Smith uses her size to her advantage and is tricky to defend. The Bears are one of the top seeds in the tournament and are scheduled to take on Hawaii in the opening round of the Wichita Regional.
Christyn Williams: UConn
When most people think about UConn, they think of Paige Bueckers, but teammate Christyn Williams is just as good and held the team down offensively when Bueckers got injured earlier in the year. While Williams can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to putting together 20+ points every game, in the clutch moments, she has proven she will step up. With Bueckers back, look for this pair to lead head coach Geno Auriemma’s team deep into the tournament.
Cameron Brink: Stanford
A member of a loaded Stanford squad, Cameron Brink is the team's point leader, with an average of 13.6 points a game. The defending champs look to repeat behind Brink's offensive prowess and defensive ability, as she also leads the Cardinal in blocks. Stanford is the No. 1 seed in the Spokane Regional.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Everyone is going to have their eyes on the top seeds — Stanford, South Carolina, Louisville, Iowa, UConn, and Baylor. These programs have a good chance to make it all the way, but here are a few that might break your brackets.
Last year’s runners up for the national title have found themselves in the fourth seed position, which allows the Wildcats to have some home-court advantage for the first two games. Cate Reese leads her team in scoring with 14.9 points a game and is a solid two-way player. Defensively, Arizona will look to Koi Love, who has numerous steals and blocks on the season so far.
Florida Gulf Coast University
Selected as the No. 12 seed in the Spokane Regional, Florida Gulf Coast is definitely a silent killer with Kierstan Bell as its superstar. Bell has an average of 23.2 points a game, she plays solid defense, leads her team in both blocks and steals, and was the ASUN Tournament MVP. Tishara Morehouse is another offensive threat for FGCU. The Eagles will play fifth-seeded Virginia Tech, who has been known to get hot down the stretch.
Georgia Tech is one of the best-coached teams in the country, with head coach Nell Fortner at the helm. The Yellow Jackets have the ability to play great defense that will carry them pretty far. Nerea Hermosa is one of Georgia Tech’s best defenders, with double-digits in both blocks and steals. Offensively, the Yellow Jackets don’t have one “go-to” shooter, but they are able to pass the ball well and work well together. Georgia Tech is slated to play eight-seed Kansas and, if it wins, will have to play Stanford the following round.
One of the biggest stories of the offseason was Kim Mulkey leaving Baylor to join the LSU coaching staff. In the move, Mulkey acquired one of the best defensive players in the nation, Ameshya Williams. While LSU was bounced early from its conference tournament, it is hoping to have Alexis Morris back on the court to help the offense. The Tigers will face Jackson State in the first round, but the matchup should go smoothly for LSU.
Fairfield University might be a stretch, but the Stags have the ability to make a decent run, assuming they can knock off Texas first. The No. 15 seed Stags were the favorite all year in the MAAC Conference, as they made quick work of every opponent they faced. Lou Lopez-Senechal is Fairfield’s leading scorer, averaging 19.3 points per game, and Callie Cavanaugh is a lockdown defender. Head Coach Joe Frager is set to retire at the end of the season, so to go out with one NCAA tournament win would be one of the best stories the MAAC has seen in a long time. Beating Texas is a big ask for the Stags, but it’s not impossible.