After watching 6-foot-6, 6-4 Ayoka Lee battle Lauren Ibo within the paint on the Girls’s Basketball Event on the Massive 12, Kansas State coach Jeff Mitty made a prediction.
“I feel positions generally is a massive issue within the NCAA championship,” mentioned Mitty, whose star Lee scored a one-game NCAA report with 61 factors earlier this season. “One factor concerning the event is that it is very bodily.”
Texans coach Vic Schaefer, who referred to as Ebbo the Longhorns’ finest participant this season, echoed Mity’s voice.
“There aren’t loads of actual 5s within the sport anymore,” Schaefer mentioned. “Everybody desires to work in opposition to all three and shoot them.” “There’s actual worth in having somebody like Lauren. I’ve an actual appreciation for these 5 who get it finished on the market and they’re bodily, they’re powerful, they shield the paint.”
Shafer went to the NCAA Championship sport in 2017 and 2018 with 6-7 Teaira McCowan, a middle star with the WNBA’s Dallas Wings. In his first season with the Texans final season, Schaeffer persistently inspired 6-5 Charlie Collier — who turned the primary choose within the 2023 draft — to remain close to the sting.
Through the years, skilled males’s and girls’s basketball has advanced into increasingly more centerless gamers who can perform a sport of seize and defend in opposition to. To some extent, this has taken root within the school sport as nicely. However the so-called old school adults are nonetheless wanted, even when their ability set expands. And whether or not they’re listed as facilities, centrals/attackers, or simply shares, those that match the invoice as their high crew and edge guards are more likely to be a big a part of the groups making it to Remaining 4 and reducing the web in Minneapolis.
This is a area by area take a look at among the finest within the 2023 NCAA Girls’s Championship.
Alia Boston of South Carolina enters the NCAA Championships with a report 24 consecutive doubles. The 6-5 Star is a superb instance of the metronome-like manufacturing being made by an amazing participant inside. Boston scored 28 three-pointers in its three seasons in South Carolina, however its bread and butter nonetheless accounts for the laborious work it does close to the basket. Energy, footwork, agility and tenacity are all qualities that describe Boston, who averages 16.8 factors, 12.0 rebounds and a pair of.6 blocks and leads the Gamecocks to the highest seed.
South Carolina coach Don Staley was Boston’s greatest fan and largest critic, as was one other Gamecock star, A’ja Wilson. That is as a result of Staley is aware of how good Boston actually is and the way good it nonetheless is. Wilson was the WNBA Junior and Draft Choose of the Yr winner in 2018 and the league’s MVP in 2020.
Boston, who led South Carolina to the Remaining 4 final season, has the potential to repeat these awards.
“Her dealing with of the ball, her capacity to make choices, her capacity to attain have improved,” Staley mentioned. “You possibly can’t do what you probably did with out being an entire participant as you at the moment are.”
2 seed in Iowa is anchored on the within by Monika Czinano, who’s all about effectivity and thus an ideal complement to her teammate Caitlin Clark, the Division I chief in assists. For the second consecutive season, Czinano is DI’s captain in area targets proportion (67.8%, 259 out of 382). Final yr when the Hawkeyes hit the Candy 16, Czinano shot 66.8% from the sector.
Xinano is without doubt one of the seniors however has already introduced that she shall be returning for the “grownup” season. On the age of 6-3, she is on the shorter facet of the facilities, however her energy and motion of her toes are sturdy. Clark and the opposite Iowa rangers are adept at getting the ball in the appropriate locations. And once they do not, Chinano has that actual job’s capacity to place herself in one of the best place to take the pictures.
She averaged simply 1.9 factors per sport in her new season, taking part in behind one other 6-3 basket-filler, Megan Gustafson (now with the Washington Mystics). However in her three seasons since then, Chisnano’s common targets have gone up from 16.0 to 19.3 to 21.1.
“She works so laborious on a regular basis, and I really like her progress from her first yr up to now and the way mature she is,” mentioned Iowa State coach Lisa Bluder.
Different notable spots within the space embody Georgia’s #6 Jenna State, with a mean of 15.0 PPG and seven.8 RPG.
The No. 7 Ole Miss is again within the event for the primary time since 2007, thanks largely to the 6-5 place Shakira Austin, who may very well be a WNBA lottery choose in April. He averages 15.4 factors and eight.9 rebounds.
Austin moved to the Ole Miss after two seasons in Maryland partly to proceed increasing her sport. Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin needed Austin to really feel assured to take some dangers to enhance. For this postseason, McPhee-McQueen retains her recommendation to Austin easy.
“Shakira simply must proceed being environment friendly. She wants management,” McPhee McQueen mentioned. “She wants to know how vital her presence on Earth is and use that to our benefit.”
2 seed Baylor has a 6-3 Queen Igbo, averaging 10.9 factors and eight.3 rebounds. Egbo has solely taken one 3-point shot this season, however Bears coach Nicki Collen mentioned that is not essentially a key a part of the place increasing her vary.
Coleen, who was previously with the Atlanta Dream Staff, wore her former WNBA coach’s hat when requested how the facilities may put together themselves for skilled basketball.
It is not all three, however you’ve to have the ability to face it,” Colin mentioned. “The purpose over time is to probably develop 3.
“I’d say that as school coaches, if now we have children who’re in a position to be professionals, we develop them to be professionals. However that’s not our job both. On the similar time, that’s how I need to play, so I can say to the child, ‘It’s going to work right here, nevertheless it’s Additionally, you will work on the subsequent stage.”
Tennessee’s No. 4 seeded 6–6 dwelling defender Tamari Key is without doubt one of the most elite inside defenders within the nation, having led the worldwide protection crew with a school-season single-time report of 115 blocked pictures. Key has had 273 blocks in her three seasons and solely wants three extra blocks to cross Girl Vols legend Candice Parker for a Tennessee profession report. The change additionally averages profession highs in factors (10.3) and rebounds (8.1).
Key has by no means taken a triple-pointer in Tennessee, which makes her akin to WNBA facilities like Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx and Britney Greiner of the Phoenix Mercury.
“And then you definitely even have somebody like [the Mystics’] Cullen mentioned Elizabeth Williams, who will not shoot from various toes. However she performs laborious, she protects an edge, she bounces. There’s nonetheless a spot for these sorts of gamers.”
Different notables within the space embody Nebraska’s Eighth-ranked Alexis Markowski, the highest ten freshman of the yr, who averages 12.8 factors and eight.0 rebounds.
Prime seed Stanford would not embody a place on his record, however striker Cameron Brink 6-4 suits the invoice. She led the Cardinal in goalscoring (13.6), rebounding (8.0) and blocking (72) and was the Pac-12 Defensive Participant of the Yr.
Brink is a post-New Period participant along with her offensive expertise – she’s 8 out of 23 on 3 throws this season – and her capacity to guard from the ocean. A foul problem–the Cardinal leads there too, with 85 fouls and two disqualifications–was about her solely battle.
Virginia Tech’s No. 5 Elizabeth Keatley, a 6-6 junior, was the ACC’s high participant of the season. Behind the 17.4 PPG and 9.9 RPG, the Hokies have held the NCAA Event’s finest participant since they ranked fourth in 1999.
Keatley has had 18 profession three-pointers at Virginia Tech and has made 5 of them. However for probably the most half, you’ll succeed within the conventional manner. She’s capturing 54.8% from the sector this season, almost matching her profession mark of 54.6.
“She’s a robust participant in a low place who might help herself to the following stage by creating extra on the ocean,” Colin mentioned.
No. 3 LSU-No. 14 Jackson State video games that includes a match from probably the greatest small conference facilities, Ameshya Williams-Holliday, in opposition to Faustine Aifuwa. Williams Vacation 6-4 was SWAC Participant of the Yr and POY averaging 19.6 factors and 11.4 rebounds, with 79 blocked pictures.
One in all her finest performances this season got here in opposition to Arkansas, with 18 factors and 21 rebounds. So a showdown in opposition to an SEC crew like LSU is nothing new to it; Jackson State additionally confronted the Ole Miss and Mississippi State this season. LSU is extra guard-oriented, however Aifuwa is the crew’s greatest menace (9.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG).
And there is Ibo of Texas, who performed her first two seasons at Penn State and is now in her second yr with the Longhorns, averaging 8.2 factors and 6.9 rebounds. With out her, Texas would not have received the Massive 12 Championship title.
“She’s somebody I can depend on and we are able to depend on,” Schaefer mentioned. “She’s working her enterprise. She’s needed to guard some actually good gamers this yr, and we do not have to assist her that a lot.”
Lee is averaging 22.4 factors, 10.2 rebounds and stopping 93 pictures for the No. 9 seed Kansas State.
Lee’s 61-point efficiency in opposition to Oklahoma on January 23 was one of many singles highlights of the faculty season. When Lee will get the ball the place she desires it, there is not loads of opposing defenses she will be able to do. She will be able to rating with each palms and has a pleasant contact across the edge, alongside along with her sheer energy.
Elisa Konani and Ayoka Lee may face off within the second spherical of the Bridgeport District match 👀🍿 pic.twitter.com/ph8tGxfZFb
– espnW (espnW) March 14, 2023
After a knee harm delayed her new season in 2018 – Lee nonetheless wears a brace – her mobility is not what it may very well be. However she is a significant drive in each match. “For me, it is nearly sticking to the fundamentals and sticking to what I do nicely,” he advised me of taking part in within the NCAA Championship for the primary time. “Simply maintain working and grinding by way of it.”
If Kansas State beats Washington State within the first spherical, the Wildcats will virtually actually face high seed NC State and 6-5 quarterback Elissa Cunane. The rematch shall be on November 19 in Raleigh, North Carolina, the place Lee has 19 factors, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Konani had 18 factors and 6 rebounds to win Wolfpack 90-69.
Within the balanced Wolfpack crew, Cunane’s numbers this season – 13.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 19 items – do not stand out. However NC’s success with it does. She is the centerpiece of a crew that completed first for the second yr in a row.
Coleen thinks she has an opportunity to fill a task within the WNBA: “I really feel like Cunane has proven that she will be able to make 3, and she or he’s actually constant.”
The quantity 13 seed IUPUI is within the NCAA Championship for the primary time because of 6-2 quarterback/strike ahead Massey Williams. She averages 18.7 factors, 10.6 rebounds and shoots 64.9% from the sector, fourth in Division I.
The Jaguar opponent, ranked fourth, Oklahoma, had a formidable season with the third highest attacking within the nation (83.3 PPG). However as Lee’s 61-point sport confirmed, the Sooners do not have loads of quantity inside or a set rim guard. So this may very well be a first-round match to look at.