The NCAA Tournament provides a final chance to see some of the top WNBA prospects in action before next month’s draft. This is a prime opportunity for players to make a great final impression and improve their draft stock. Whether they are bounced after just one game or make it all the way to the Final Four, here are some of the key seniors to keep an eye on as the tournament tips off this weekend.
1 South Carolina vs. 16 UNC Asheville
– Alaina Coates, C, South Carolina
Unfortunately, the top senior to watch in this matchup – South Carolina’s Coates – will be unable to play in this game or any game in the NCAA Tournament due to an ankle injury. How much will the top-seeded Gamecocks miss Coates’ 12.9 points and 10.7 rebounds as they look to make it back to the Final Four after falling in the Sweet Sixteen a year ago?
8 Arizona State vs. 9 Michigan State
– Sophie Brunner, F, Arizona State
– Tori Jankoska, G, Michigan State
Brunner, a 6-1 forward, leads the Sun Devils in scoring (13.5 ppg), rebounding (7.4 rpg), field goal percentage (52.5%) and 3-point percentage (40.0%). The three-time All Pac-12 selection does most of her work in the post (26.9% of her plays according to Synergy), where she often uses a short fadeaway shot against taller defenders and uses her quickness to grab 3.0 offensive rebounds per game and get easy points on put-backs. But she has also expanded her perimeter game, incorporating the 3-point shot (10-of-25 this season after going a combined 4-of-12 in her first three seasons). She even showed the ability to expand her shot beyond half court with this buzzer beater.
THAT BUZZER BEATER. HOW. WHAT.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) February 25, 2017
On the opposite side of the court will be Michigan State’s Tori Jankoska, who leads the Spartans in scoring (22.5 ppg, 10th in NCAA), rebounding (8.0 rpg at 5-foot-8), 3-pointers made (3.72 per game, 1st in NCAA) and steals (1.78). Jankoska lives beyond the 3-point line with 312 of her 529 total shot attempts (59%) coming from three. The sharpshooter has connected on 38.1% of her 3-pointers this season, but has continued to add other facets to her offensive arsenal – post ups, pull up jumpers, drives, finding open teammates (4.9 assists per game. Last month, Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant touted Jankoska as a top 10 WNBA draft pick and feels the nation is not aware of just how good she is and can be. Can Jankoska make a lasting impression in her final NCAA Tournament run and make everyone take notice?
4 Miami vs. 13 Florida Gulf Coast
– Adrienne Motley, G, Miami
The Hurricanes open the NCAA Tournament by hosting Florida Gulf Coast in Coral Gables on Saturday, which guarantees Adrienne Motley of at least one more game in front of the home crowd at the Watsco Center. The 5-foot-9 guard leads the Hurricanes in scoring (13.9 ppg) and 3-pointers made (1.83 per game) and ranks third in assists (2.73 apg). In addition to being able to knock down spot-up jumpers on the perimeter, Motley excels in the pick-and-roll, using screens to find openings for mid-range jumpers, drives to the basket or finding open teammates as she draws the defense toward her.
3 Florida State vs. 14 Western Illinois
– Leticia Romero, G, Florida State
The 5-8 guard from Las Palmas, Spain got some incredible experience against professional level players this past summer as she was a member of the Spanish Olympic team that captured the silver medal in Rio de Janeiro. Since returning to FSU, Romero has enjoyed a great senior season as she ranks second on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg), assists (3.76 apg) and 3-pointers made (52 total). Her 53.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc would rank first in the NCAA had she hit the minimum requirement of averaging two 3-pointers per game; she fell at 1.79 per game.
2 Oregon State vs. 15 Long Beach State
– Sydney Wiese, G, Oregon State
A player who didn’t fall short of the 3-pointers made per game rule was Wiese, who averaged over three treys per game and shot the long ball at 45.9 percent this season, good for sixth in the NCAA. The 6-foot-1 guard from Phoenix has her second season with at least 100 3-pointers made and has shot 41.8 percent over her four year career at Oregon State. Entering the NCAA Tournament, only 10 players have made at least 100 3-pointers this season. Wiese is averaging a career-best 15.7 points in her senior season to go with 4.9 rebounds and 4.58 assists as she’s showcased more of her game than just her long-distance shooting.