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 Notre Dame vs. 16 Robert Morris
– Lindsay Allen, G, Notre Dame
For the third straight year, Allen has been named one of the five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, which honors the nation’s best point guard. The Irish floor general has never missed a start in her four-year career and owns a 136-9 over that span. Her 7.6 assists per game ranks fourth in the NCAA as does her 3.55 assist-to-turnover ratio. While best known for her passing ability, Allen also chips in 9.2 points, 5.2 rebounds (second on team) and a team-best 2.33 steals per game. She enters her final NCAA Tournament having just set an ACC Tournament record with 33 assists as she claimed MVP honors.
5 Ohio State vs. 12 Western Kentucky
– Shayla Cooper, F, Ohio State
Cooper is the lone senior on the No. 5 seed Buckeyes and is determined to help her team make a deep run in her final NCAA Tournament. She is Ohio State’s third-leading scorer (10.5 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (6.3) in her first season as a full-time starter.
4 Kentucky vs. 13 Belmont
– Evelyn Akhator, F, Kentucky
– Makayla Epps, G, Kentucky
The Kentucky seniors are guaranteed at least one more game on their home floor as they open the NCAA Tournament at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington on Friday. Epps, a 5-10 guard, leads the team in scoring (17.2 ppg) and is coming off a season-high 31 points in Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina in the semifinals of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament. Epps is more than just as a scorer as she adds 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game as well. Akhator is a 6-3 forward that leads the Wildcats in rebounding (10.5 ranks 20th in NCAA) and is second in scoring (15.8 ppg). Her 16 double-doubles is tied for 12th in the NCAA. The Wildcats received good news as starting point guard Taylor Murray has been cleared to play after missing the South Carolina game with a neck injury.
7 Kansas State vs. 10 Drake
– Lizzy Wendell, F, Drake
The Drake Bulldogs are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in a decade and enter Saturday’s first round game against Kansas State riding a 22-game winning streak. Wendell, a 6-foot forward, leads the team in both scoring (21.1 ppg, 13th in the NCAA) and steals (2.63, 32nd in NCAA) while also chipping in 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per night. She has worked on adding new facets to her game each season – post ups, pull ups, mid-range shots – to improve her versatility. She is shooting a career-best 50.2 percent from the field this season and is a career 33.8 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
2 Stanford vs. 15 New Mexico State
– Erica McCall, F, Stanford
– Karlie Samuelson, G, Stanford
McCall and Samuelson were both freshmen the last time the Cardinal advanced to the Final Four back in 2014. Both played limited minutes off the bench in their semifinal loss to UConn with McCall scoring four points and grabbing five rebounds in seven minutes. Three years later, the Cardinal enter the tournament as a No. 2 seed and McCall (team-leading 14.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 1.64 bpg) and Samuelson (12.7 ppg on 47.6% 3FG%, 4th in NCAA) leading the way.