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Senior Watch: Championship Week 2019 – Eyes on the ACC’s Top WNBA Draft Prospects

Here we go! March is here, which means it’s tournament time in college basketball. But before the 2019 NCAA Tournament is announced on March 18 and tips off on March 22, there are conference champions to be crowned.

This week, we will look at some of the marquee conference tournaments that feature multiple WNBA draft prospects, beginning with the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, which tips off on Wednesday, March 6 and determines its champion on Sunday, March 10 in Greensboro, N.C.

Let’s take a closer look at the tournament schedule and highlight some of the top seniors to watch each day. All times listed below are Eastern Standard Time.

First Round – Wednesday, March 6

  • No. 13 Boston College vs. No. 12 Virginia (1:00 p.m.)
  • No. 10 Virginia Tech vs. No. 15 Wake Forest (3:30 p.m.)
  • No. 11 Duke vs. No. 14 Pitt (6:30 p.m.)

Taylor Emery, G, Virginia Tech

Regan Magarity, F, Virginia Tech

The tournament tips off with the bottom six seeds facing off in the first round to determine the opponents for three of the higher seeds that earned byes to the second round.

Two players to watch on Wednesday are Virginia Tech teammates Taylor Emery and Regan Magarity. Both players earned All-ACC honors this season with Emery getting a first-team selection from the league’s head coaches and both players getting second-team honors from the ACC Blue Ribbon Panel.

Emery finished third in the league in scoring at 17.9 points per game to go with 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists. The 5-10 guard averaged 2.2 3-pointers a game and connected at a 38.4% clip from beyond the arc. She has 13 20-point games this season thanks to her ability to score from all over the court. She can get to the basket, has a nice pull-up jumper and can shoot the three as well.

Magarity, a 6-3 forward from Sweden, is Virginia Tech’s second leading scorer (14.4 per game) and the top rebounder in the ACC (12.9 per game), which ranks fifth in the NCAA. She finished with double-figure rebounds in all but four games this season and her 20 double-doubles ranks seventh in the NCAA. In addition to her work on the glass and in the paint, Magarity can also handle the ball on the perimeter and ranks second on the team in assists (2.3 per game).

Second Round – Thursday, March 7

  • No. 5 Syracuse vs. TBA (11:00 a.m.)
  • No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech (2:00 p.m.)
  • No. 7 Clemson vs. TBA (6:00 p.m.)
  • No. 6 Florida State vs. TBA (8:00 p.m.)

Paris Kea, G, North Carolina

Miranda Drummond, F, Syracuse

Thursday brings five more teams into the tournament field and two more key prospects to keep an eye on: Paris Kea from North Carolina and Miranda Drummond from Syracuse.

Key, a 5-9 guard, will be playing in her hometown of Greensboro this weekend as she looks to lead the Tar Heels to the ACC Championship in her final season at UNC. She led the Tar Heels in scoring at 16.7 points per game (fifth in the ACC), ranked second in assists (3.8 per game) and earned first team All-ACC honors for the second straight season. She had seven 20-point games this season, including a memorable 30-point, 10-assist performance to help UNC knock off top-ranked Notre Dame on Jan. 27.

Miranda, a 6-1 forward, is a versatile player that does a little bit of everything for the Orange. She is their second-leading scorer, one of six players to average between 4.5 and 5.0 rebounds per game, ranks second in steals (1.8 per game) and leads the team in 3-pointers made (2.8 per game) and 3-point percentage (38.7%). She shot the longball even better a season ago (40.2%), which is a skill that translates from college to the pros very well.

Quarterfinals – Friday, March 8

  • No. 4 Miami vs. TBA (11:00 a.m.)
  • No. 1 Notre Dame vs. TBA (2:00 p.m.)
  • No. 2 Louisville vs. TBA (6:00 p.m.)
  • No. 3 NC State vs. TBA (8:00 p.m.)

The heavy hitters come out on Friday as the top four seeds begin tournament play and bring plenty of top prospects to the court.

Asia Durr, G, Louisville

Sam Fuehring, F, Louisville

Arica Carter, G, Louisville

We’ve discussed the Irish quartet and Louisville’s star guard Durr in previous editions of the Senior Watch, but here’s a quick update. Durr is still an awesome scorer (tied with Ogunbowale for the ACC lead at 21.4 points per game, which also ranks 13th in the NCAA) and projects as a lottery pick in next month’s draft. On Wednesday, prior to the tournament tipping off, Durr was named ACC Player of the Year for the second straight season.

While Durr deservedly gets most of the attention for the Cardinals, we must highlight the senior duo of Sam Fuehring and Arica Carter as they prepare for their final postseason run. Fuehring is Louisville’s third-leading scorer (10.4 per game) and leading rebounder (7.0 per game), while Carter is the team’s fourth-leading scorer (8.6 per game) and ranks second in both 3-pointers made (1.9 per game) and 3-point percentage (39.4%).

Arike Ogunbowale, G, Notre Dame

Jessica Shepard, F, Notre Dame

Brianna Turner, Notre Dame

Marina Mabrey, Notre Dame

Notre Dame is the top seed in the ACC Tournament and their quarter of senior prospects are a big reason why they have had such a great season. Ogunbowale followed up her star-making Final Four performance from last year with an outstanding senior season that saw her tie with Durr for the ACC lead in scoring.

On Wednesday, Turner was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year for the third time in her career (2016, 2017, 2019). The graduate student missed Notre Dame’s championship run last year due to injury, but returned for her final season of eligibility and showed to be back in top form as she prepares to take the next step in her playing career. Turner led the ACC in blocks (2.73 per game, 10th in NCAA), while adding 13.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Irish.

Meanwhile, Shepard finished the regular season with averages of 16.1 points (2nd on team) and a team-best 9.9 rebounds, while shooting an efficient 60.1% from the field. Mabrey enters the tournament averaging 14.2 points per game and is shooting a blistering 45.1% from beyond the arc (64-142). Her 3-point shooting accuracy leads the ACC and ranks seventh in the NCAA.

Emese Hof, C, Miami

Kiara Leslie, G, NC State

Quarterfinal play opens on Friday with the Miami Hurricanes in action, which means ACC Most Improved Player Emese Hof will be on the court. The 6-3 forward/center from the Netherlands, earned Most Improved after averaging 14.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game during her senior season. Those marks are up from 9.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game a season ago. Hof was one of two players (along with Kiara Leslie) to earn both first-team All-ACC and ACC All-Defensive Team honors this season.

Kiara Leslie leads NC State in nearly every major statistical category – points (15.8), rebounds (7.3), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.86). She ranks second in assists (3.0), 3-pointers made (2.1) and 3-point percentage (39.1%). The 6-0 wing does a little bit of everything for the Wolfpack, while also routinely defending the opponent’s top perimeter threat.

Semifinals – Saturday, March 9

  • Game 1 (12:00 p.m.)
  • Game 2 (2:30 p.m.)

Finals – Sunday, March 10

  • Championship Game (12:00 p.m.)