The hype surrounding the 2013 WNBA Draft class – which includes three game-changing prospects in Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, all currently playing for their respective colleges – is at an all-time high as all three have the potential to immediately make a substantial impact on a franchise. All season long, WNBA.com will update you with what each of these players is doing for their respective schools as it's never to early for WNBA fans to start following some of the future stars of this league.
On Monday, March 4, we saw the future of the WNBA in action.
The future is bright.
In Waco, Texas, Baylor's Brittney Griner reminded us all -- as if we needed it -- that she is unlike any player we've ever seen in the women's game.
Forget the fact that against Kansas State she scored a career-high 50 points on 21-for-28 shooting. Forget the fact that she moved into second place all-time on the NCAA women's scoring list. Forget every other accomplishment that the walking milestone reached.
Sure, Griner has dunked an NCAA record 14 times in her career, but this one was special for two reasons. 1) In an article in the Waco-Tribune last week, Griner talked about how she wanted to dunk at home, something she hadn't done since her freshman year. Then, in her last ever regular season game in front of her home crowd, she delivered. Translation: It's almost as if she can do it at will. 2) Maybe even more important was the ease at which she dunked. In the history of the game, in-game dunks for women were widely reserved for wide-open fast breaks. With Griner, as seen in Monday's dunk, all she needs is a drop-step.
The proof is in the highlights. The game, as far as we know it, has been changed. And that is why Griner is as hyped a draft prospect in WNBA history.
Meanwhile, in South Bend, Indiana, about 1,100 miles away from the scene of Griner's heroics, Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins was adding yet another chapter to her ever-growing legend by leading the Fighting Irish to a thrilling, three-OT win over arch-rival Connecticut on national TV.
Yes, women's college basketball stole the headlines on Monday. Time to take a closer look at all three of our game-changing prospects.
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With Delaware's win against Drexel on March 3, the Blue Hens clinched their second straight Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title. Delle Donne struggled a bit with her shot in that game, going 9-for-22 from the floor, but she was able to get to the line and be effective from there, hitting all nine of her attempts from the charity stripe. Powered by Delle Donne, the Blue Hens have now won 21 straight games, which not only tied a school record, but is the third longest active win streak in NCAA Division I (behind only Baylor and Notre Dame). In addition, Delaware has won its last 36 conference games.
Averaging 25.6 points per game on the year, Delle Donne is currently second in the nation in scoring. In the past four games, however, she is just shy of 30 points per night, signifying that she appears to be peaking for the tournament stretch run.
What They're Saying:
On Monday, Delle Donne tweeted this, underscoring her excitement for postseason play.
"Happy Monday! Its MARCH... #themadnessisapproaching"
Regular Season over. Notre Dame will see its first action in the Big East Tournament on Sunday, March 10. Follow Here
We're running out of superlatives to describe Diggins' ability to lead her to team to wins. In yet another gritty effort, the South Bend native, on Senior Night no less, played all 55 minutes of a three-OT victory over No. 3 Connecticut. In the process, the Irish clinched the BIG EAST regular-season title for the second straight year. Diggins finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds in her last game in front of her hometown crowd. While her shot wasn't always falling on Monday, the defensive intensity that she brought was inspiring to both her teammates and the home crowd.
With the win, Diggins continued her dominance over UConn, having defeated the Huskies six of the last seven times they've faced. The last team to win at least six out of seven games against the UConn was Villanova in the 1980s.
What They're Saying:
Graham Hays of espnW wrote this about the thrilling triple-overtime game.
"It was the kind of game worthy of settling a championship, worthy of a capacity crowd and worthy of national audience. It was a game worthy of what Diggins did for her program the past four seasons."
Regular Season over. Baylor will see its first action in the Big 12 Tournament on Saturday, March 9. Follow Here
We've already discussed Griner's performance on Monday from a contextual sense. Now, it's time to look at it through a statistical lens. Her 50 points were not only a career-high, but also a Big-12 record. Maybe more importantly, the outburst put her one point ahead of Patricia Hoskins of Mississippi Valley State for second on the all-time scoring list, making her 270 points shy of Missouri State's Jackie Stiles for the all-time record.
Can Griner break Stiles' mark? It won't be easy, but then again, would anything surprise you with Griner? With a maximum nine games left -- which would mean Baylor makes both the Big 12 Tournament Final and NCAA Tournament Final, something the team is largely expected to do -- Griner would need to average exactly 30 points a night to equal the record. If Monday is any indication, it's certainly possible. At the very least, it's just another subplot to a highly anticipated women's basketball postseason.
What They're Saying:
Michelle Voepel of espnW wrote this about Griner's performance on Monday.
"Monday was very special, and yet in a way it was actually … almost routine. Because being spectacular is pretty much just what Griner does."