6 key players to watch in the NCAA women’s tournament
Every coach in the NCAA tournament knows who they want to have the ball with the game on the line.
If UConn ever is in a tight game, there is no doubt Breanna Stewart would be who coach Geno Auriemma would look to for the Huskies. Chiney Ogwumike has done pretty much everything for Stanford in her career and she’d be the one for the Cardinal.
Maybe it’s not the shot that would be needed.
Alyssa Thomas of Maryland could take the shot, but also could make the pass that leads to the winning basket — she does have four triple-doubles this season. Baylor point guard Odyssey Sims has stepped up her scoring and hit nearly every big shot that the Lady Bears have needed.
Here are six others players that could be called upon at crunch time in the NCAA tournament:
MAGGIE LUCAS: Penn State’s sharpshooting senior averaged 21.5 points this season. If the Lady Lions have a lead late in the game the ball will definitely be in her hand. She’s basically automatic from the free throw line shooting over 95 percent this season. How rare is that combo, well she’s the only player in NCAA women’s history to score more than 20 points a game and shoot better than 95 percent from the line.
KAYLA MCBRIDE: Notre Dame’s senior leader has really emerged this season for the unbeaten Irish. She’s saved her best play for the biggest stage. In games against Duke, Tennessee, and Maryland, McBride is averaging 24.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and shooting 53 percent from the field. Not too shabby. It’s no wonder that WNBA scouts expect her to go high in the draft this April.
JENNIFER O’NEILL: It’s not just about the seniors. Kentucky’s junior guard has already shown she can make the big play, scoring a school-record 43 points in the four-overtime thriller against Baylor in December. Comfortable in her role as the team’s sixth man, O’Neill has flourished guiding the Wildcats to a fifth-straight NCAA tournament appearance. They just hope she can lead them to a first Final Four.
EBONY ROWE: Middle Tennessee’s star may be the least well known of the six. The Conference USA Player of the Year, holds 13 school records including the school’s all-time scoring and rebounding mark and is one of the rare few to be on the national leaderboard for scoring and rebounding. If the Blue Raiders are going to make any kind of run in the tournament, Rowe will be at the center of it.
SHONI SCHIMMEL: The Louisville senior guard made a name for herself in last season’s NCAA tournament helping Louisville pull off the monumental upset of Baylor in the regional semifinals. Now in her final season, Schimmel hopes to guide the Cardinals back to the national championship game. Despite playing at home, it won’t be an easy road for the three seed, having to potentially play West Virginia and top-seed Tennessee if they can make it back to Louisville.
MEIGHAN SIMMONS: Tennessee’s feisty and speedy guard doesn’t have a great track record in the postseason. She shot a combined 5 of 31 in the Lady Vols’ final two tournament games last season. Then again, none of this current Lady Vols crop has a stellar NCAA tournament history as the program’s gone through a five-year Final Four drought. Still, Holly Warlick would trust Simmons to come up with the big shot in a tight situation. She’s the lone senior on Tennessee’s roster.
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