March Madness: Clark, Boston highlight women’s players to watch for
March Madness is back again and this year’s women’s basketball tournament has an impressive array of talent across the board and compelling storylines abound.
Watch first round coverage of women’s March Madness LIVE on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT on TSN2 and streaming on TSN.ca and the TSN App.
From Aliyah Boston and South Carolina aiming for a second straight national title to Caitlin Clark looking to lead Iowa to its first-ever championship, the magic of March Madness is knowing to expect the unexpected.
Here are seven players to watch in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Caitlin Clark – Iowa Hawkeyes
Every time Caitlin Clark stepped foot on the court this season for the Iowa Hawkeyes, there was an expectation something special would happen and the junior from Des Moines did not disappoint.
Her buzzer-beater three-point winner on Feb. 26 to send the Hawkeyes past No. 2 Indiana in a game where she finished with 34 points, nine rebounds and nine assists dominated highlight reels. But the two-time AP First Team All-American wasn’t done there.
In the Big 10 tournament, she continued to pace Iowa, crowned by a triple-double performance in the championship game, as the Hawkeyes blew out the Ohio State Buckeyes 105-72 for the program’s second consecutive conference title. Her 10 career triple-doubles is second in NCAA women’s basketball history, trailing only former Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu’s 26.
“One of those talents that doesn’t come along very often,” said TSN Basketball analyst and Seattle Storm guard Kia Nurse. “She's unbelievably talented. Her confidence that she plays with is so fun, because it's something that kind of translates to every one of her teammates.
“I think Caitlin Clark is the most important player to her team in the country. She has triple doubles for a reason, but she can consistently get you 20 to 30 points every single night, will knock down shots in the clutch with ease. Her three-point range is absolutely unlimited. The moment she steps over half court, you have to guard her and she's really, really good with pick and roll.”
Clark’s 27 points per game average this season was second in the nation only to Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist, who averaged 28.9.
Aliyah Boston – South Carolina Gamecocks
Reigning NCAA champion South Carolina went undefeated in 2022-23 and Boston is a big reason why.
The 2022 Player of the Year, she took home SEC Player and Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year this season and became the 10th player to be named to the AP First Team All-American for the third straight year.
Even though Boston’s offensive numbers are down this season, Nurse says that if South Carolina is going repeat, even with the impressive array of talent they boast, it will be mainly on the back of Boston to get them there.
“Because South Carolina has been dominating literally everybody that they've played against, I don't think she's had to play as many meaningful minutes and her team has really stepped up around her,” said Nurse. “But she's still one of those players that anytime she catches the ball in the low post, you have to send a double team. Some teams have been sending a triple team and that just speaks to her talents and her ability down there.
“I think she's really, really good on the inside, creating positions, creating opportunities for herself close to the rim, and finishing around the rim. And if she's not getting the position, she's doing a good job of getting to the offensive glass and creating extra possessions.”
Averaging 13.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and two blocks per game, the 6-foot-5 senior had 18 points and seven rebounds in the SEC championship 74-58 win over Tennessee.
Angel Reese – LSU Tigers
In her first season at LSU after transferring from Maryland, Reese had a career season, averaging 23.4 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
She had a double-double in all but two games this season, only failing to hit that mark against No. 1 South Carolina and Georgia.
“She's one that plays [with] passion, she plays with a ton of confidence,” said Nurse. “She will talk that talk and she has a game to back that up. She’s a double-double machine, extremely athletic from the high post region, has great one, two explosive steps to get to the rim, can score in a number of different ways and she's really, really active.
“One of the things that I've really been impressed with Angel Reese has been her leadership. And every leader is very different. Every player responds very differently to leaders. And I think that her teammates really do respond to her voice and how she carries herself, but also to the challenges that she gets and I think she holds herself to a high standard but she also challenges her teammates in a really like constructive way that works for them.”
The Tigers were not a title favourite heading into the season but Nurse believes the Tigers can make a big run, pointing to head coach Kim Mulkey’s experience (three NCAA titles as a head coach) in this tournament as an advantage.
Cameron Brink – Stanford Cardinal
Going 27-4 this season, the Stanford Cardinal enjoyed another strong campaign with Cameron Brink leading the charge.
The junior averaged 14.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks this season while shooting 49 per cent from the field. Brink, who is six-foot-four, was second in the nation in blocks with a total of 111 this season.
“Cameron is a really unique talent and a really skilled player at her size,” said Nurse. “So I think her ability to play a finesse style of basketball gives her the chance to score in a number of different ways. At her size, she can shoot over pretty much any defender.
“She does [a] really good job on both ends of the floor, she's the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year, leads her team in literally every major statistical category that there is, and on the defensive side of things, in blocks. I think she has a really good feel and a high basketball IQ for the game.”
After winning the 2021 NCAA championship, the Cardinal were defeated in the Final Four last year by UConn. If Stanford is going to make another run, they have some work to do as they looked far from their dominant selves in the conference tournament, losing 69-65 in the Pac-12 semifinal to UCLA.
“I think it's important that if they want to go far that Cameron Brink plays a big role and plays a big scoring role for this team,” added Nurse.
Diamond Miller – Maryland Terrapins
A unanimous All-Big Ten first-team selection this season averaging 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds, Miller hit double digits in every game except one in 2022-23.
Named to the AP second team All American this season, she had a 21-point, six-rebound performance in an 89-84 loss to Iowa in the Big Ten semifinal.
“She's got a bag of tricks of different types of moves, in which she can score,” said Nurse on Miller. “She's really, really athletic, great explosion. At times, we think you have to double take what she just did, because she can cover so much ground to get to the rim.
“It's really impressive and what she's been able to do but it's also leading her team on the offensive end and scoring rebounds and on the defensive end her touch is really important as well because she can protect the rim, and she's leading her team in blocks there.”
While Boston is the consensus No. 1 pick to the Indiana Fever if she chooses to go pro, Miller is expected to be a lottery pick in the upcoming WNBA draft with the Minnesota Lynx, Dallas Wings (picks three and five) and Washington Mystics set to pick in the top five.
Azzi Fudd – UConn
Fudd only appeared in 12 games this season for UConn due to injury but was a difference-maker when she did play.
She averaged 15.5 points and 2.1 assists while shooting 49.3 per cent from the field but missed nearly three full months with a knee injury.
The entire Huskies squad dealt with injuries all season long and were without the services of Paige Bueckers due to ACL surgery. However, UConn has gotten healthier with a streak of Final Four appearances that has lasted 14 years on the line heading into the tournament.
“Azzi Fudd being back I think is important for them because Aaliyah [Edwards] has been so fantastic on the inside, their inside presence is very solidified with what she's been able to do all season long,” said Nurse, who won two NCAA titles with UConn. “They have to have a consistent outside scoring threat. Lou Lopez Senechal has been kind of getting that for them.
“But Azzi Fudd stepped up massively in the beginning of the season, pre injury, with Paige Bueckers being out, and she can really score and she can really shoot the ball. She doesn't need a lot of time and space, it's a really quick release. But she was really their biggest scoring threat before she got hurt.”
Maddy Siegrist – Villanova
Siegrist led the country in scoring this season, averaging 28.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting 51.8 per cent from the field as Villanova went 28-6.
The Wildcats lost in the Big East tournament final 67-56 to UConn but Siegrist led the way with a game-high 22 points as Villanova heads into March Madness as a No. 4 seed.
“She’s a natural scorer, she can do it at all three levels inside and outside,” said Nurse. “She's got a good presence and good size in the guard position to be able to do that.
“Her team's going to have to be the one to step up around her to help her have them make a little bit of a run here.”
Like Boston and Miller, Siegrist is also expected to be a high pick if she declares for the 2023 WNBA Draft.