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March Insanity storylines: UConn’s damage woes; South Carolina goals for repeat; Angel Reese’s POY uncertainty

It’s been a wild year in women’s college basketball. The Big Ten is stacked, the ACC is unpredictable, Pac-12 after dark never disappoints and the Big East is a battle.South Carolina rolled through the season undefeated and held the Associated Press No. 1 ranking from start to the likely finish next week. But below the

March Insanity storylines: UConn’s damage woes; South Carolina goals for repeat; Angel Reese’s POY uncertainty

It’s been a wild yr in ladies’s faculty basketball. The Large Ten is stacked, the ACC is unpredictable, Pac-12 after darkish by no means disappoints and the Large East is a battle.

South Carolina rolled by the season undefeated and held the Related Press No. 1 rating from begin to the probably end subsequent week. However under the Gamecocks was chaos. A complete of 14 applications had been ranked within the prime 5, tying the report with the 2008-09 season. Three completely different Large Ten applications held onto the No. 2 rating sooner or later, from Ohio State to Indiana and now Iowa. And 43 applications had been ranked within the Prime 25 ballot not less than as soon as, trailing solely the totals for 2009-10 (47) and each 1991-92 and 2014-15 (45), according to Across the Timeline.

Connecticut, South Carolina and Iowa are still the largest storylines because the NCAA match suggestions off Wednesday, with the most pressing questions facing the selection committee ahead of Selection Sunday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).

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UConn went by an unprecedented damage stretch

It has been a protracted, tough season for the 11-time champion UConn Huskies they usually seemed to be collapsing on the worst time. The Huskies (29-5) whimpered by February and fell from Remaining 4 favourite standing, placing their report 14-consecutive-appearance streak in jeopardy. That’s, till Azzi Fudd returned to observe and performed within the Large East match after lacking 22 video games. Her presence propelled the Huskies past Villanova in the tournament title game, 67-56.

Accidents are the story of UConn’s 2022-23 season and even with Fudd within the combine, it isn’t one other March of “UConn and everybody else.” The Huskies entered the season without former National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers (ACL) and star recruit Ice Brady (patella), leaving 10 gamers rostered after the late addition of freshman Inês Bettencourt. Fudd carried the Huskies offensively and have become an early candidate for Participant of the 12 months awards until injuring her right knee in the December loss to Notre Dame. She missed eight video games over about six weeks of motion, the complete estimate for her restoration.

Whereas she was out, UConn (NET 2) was pressured to postpone its recreation in opposition to St. John’s on Jan. 8 because it didn’t have the convention minimal of eight accessible gamers. Junior ahead Aaliyah Edwards (foot), freshman Ayanna Patterson (concussion) and sophomore Caroline Ducharme (concussion) were also out with injury. Head coach Geno Auriemma additionally missed time to concentrate on his well being after his mom died in December.

UConn guard Azzi Fudd is back, and the Huskies won the Big East tournament title and are in good shape heading into the NCAA tournament. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

UConn guard Azzi Fudd is again, and the Huskies gained the Large East match title and are in fine condition heading into the NCAA match. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports activities)
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In Fudd’s second recreation again on Jan. 15, she re-injured her knee and didn’t play till March 4. The group stated it will not launch a timeline for her return and there was optimism across the program that she would return. She did heat up with the group forward of the season finale, however was dominated out.

Accidents left UConn with between seven and eight accessible gamers, and Auriemma hesitated to lean on the bench a lot in any respect. Their starter-to-bench scoring ratio was startling and fatigue, each psychological and bodily, started to set in. Auriemma declined to level to only that, saying after a near-loss to Xavier (0-20 Large East) that issues on his team had to do with selfishness as gamers would “choose and select once they need to hearken to how they’re being coached.”

In February, UConn took a formidable four-point loss to South Carolina at residence, but additionally two dangerous Large East losses to Marquette (NET 42) and St. John’s (NET 55) en path to a 6-3 report through the month. The Huskies had their first back-to-back losses since 1993 and the primary season of not less than two convention losses since 2013. Their common profitable margin is 6.8 factors, down from 23 factors over the 22 video games (going 20-2) heading into the month.

There’s renewed optimism that UConn might once more run the desk and make a Remaining 4. Fudd’s return was the primary time since Nov. 14 that the program had 10 healthy players. And Fudd utterly modifications the way in which opponents recreation plan for the Huskies.

Aliyah Boston and the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrate their win in the SEC tournament championship game on March 5, 2023, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Aliyah Boston and the South Carolina Gamecocks rejoice their win within the SEC match championship recreation on March 5, 2023, at Bon Secours Wellness Area in Greenville, South Carolina. (Eakin Howard/Getty Pictures)

It’s South Carolina … and all people else

South Carolina (32-0, 16-0 SEC) came into the regular season as favorites and ended it the same way. The reigning champions completed out their first undefeated common season in program historical past with seven wins in opposition to groups within the NET prime 25. Within the November non-conference schedule, the Gamecocks (NET 1) defeated Maryland (NET 13) by 25 factors, Stanford (NET 4) by 5 in additional time and UCLA (NET 22) by 9. Final month, South Carolina secured its first street win in opposition to Connecticut (NET 2) with an 81-77 margin that cemented its standing as the top of the pack. And it introduced the SEC championship again residence to Columbia on Sunday with a second win over Tennessee (NET 15).

The Gamecocks function reigning Nationwide Participant of the 12 months Aliyah Boston, who gained her fourth SEC Defensive Participant of the 12 months honor and second consecutive POY one. She is in line for a second nationwide POY award, although her averages (13.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg) are down due to the fixed junk defenses she’s confronted and her group’s capacity to step up round her. This system’s power is its dimension, protection (rated first by Her Hoop Stats and permitting 50.3 ppg) and rebounding (ranked first at a 63.4% rank).

However the actual benefit is its unbelievable depth — a lot in order that head coach Daybreak Staley has principally a Energy 5 beginning 5 on the bench. No participant is averaging greater than 26 minutes per recreation.

Kamilla Cardoso, a 6-foot-7 junior middle, was named the convention’s Sixth Participant of the 12 months, averaging 9.7 ppg, 8.9 rpg and 1.9 bpg in 18.2 mpg. She was additionally named to the All-SEC second group. Redshirt freshman guard Raven Johnson has taken over in huge video games — together with the SEC championship win with start line guard Kierra Fletcher out — and has a team-leading 3.2 apg off the bench. And Laeticia Amihere was so essential within the SEC match run that Boston gave the 6-4 senior ahead her all-tournament team trophy.

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The senior group has misplaced eight video games complete of their collegiate careers with a No. 1 rating as freshmen when the NCAA match was canceled, two Remaining 4 berths and a title. South Carolina can be the primary repeat winners since UConn rattled off 4 straight from 2013-16. Tennessee and USC are the one different back-to-back champions within the historical past of the NCAA Division I championship. A special group has gained the final 4 championships courting again to the Gamecocks’ 2017 title.

Sure, Caitlin Clark is as harmful from the brand as ever

Iowa (26-6, 15-3 Large Ten) standout Caitlin Clark retains being Caitlin Clark. Be able to ask, “Are you serious, Clark?” extra occasions than cousin Eddie did one thing dumb at Christmas.

Clark is routinely pulling up and hitting 3s from the brand (nonetheless), even when stated emblem is comparatively small. She remains to be discovering teammates the size of the courtroom in transition and threading passes by a congested paint. The junior level guard is averaging 27 factors per recreation, the very same as her nation-leading quantity as a sophomore, and trails solely Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist (29.2 ppg). Her 3.4 made 3s ranks third (and eight.9 makes an attempt ranks second), and he or she’s capable of get to the free-throw line at a top-five charge within the nation. For a second consecutive season, she ranks first with 8.3 assists per recreation. And her 7.5 rebounds per recreation are top-third within the nation. Clark is a nightly triple-double menace and, as onerous as it’s to fathom, heats as much as a roar in huge matchups.

“I feel early on it was about scoring, however she sees the ground and makes the fitting selections in addition to anyone I’ve seen, perhaps ever, in faculty basketball,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff stated after Clark dropped 30 factors, 17 assists and 10 rebounds on his squad within the Large Ten championship recreation.

Clark is the primary participant in ladies’s Division I historical past to have three profession 30-point triple-doubles and moved into second all-time behind Sabrina Ionescu (26). She had a 28-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound mark earlier within the season in opposition to the Buckeyes (NET 16) that snapped their undefeated streak. She scored 34 in opposition to Indiana (NET 5) within the common season finale, including 9 assists and 9 rebounds. Earlier within the season, she dropped 35 factors on Indiana and 42 on Maryland (NET 13).

Angel Reese and the Nationwide Participant of the 12 months race

The Nationwide Participant of the 12 months dialog shortly was a three-player race between South Carolina’s Boston, Iowa’s Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese. Heading into the match, Boston (13.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 1.8 apg) and Clark once more look like in a battle for the award with Clark’s significance to Iowa overshadowing that of Boston’s to South Carolina. Villanova’s Siegrist and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes are also fair additions and arguments may be made that their visibility has damage their inclusion in that dialogue.

Reese’s candidacy has long been overshadowed by the non-conference schedule LSU faced. Its NET non-conference power of schedule is ranked 319th, the worst of the all however one NET prime 50 group by a big margin. As compared, South Carolina is ranked fifteenth within the class and Iowa is ranked nineteenth.

It took one other hit over the weekend when she was left off of the John R. Picket Award’s 15-player finalist record. Reese is averaging 23.4 factors (fifth) and 15.5 rebounds (second) and is ranked second in win shares by Her Hoop Stats.

LSU informed ESPN that Reese is just not eligible for the award as a result of she didn’t meet all the standards. Head coach Kim Mulkey was requested about it after the group’s loss to Tennessee that night within the SEC match semifinals.

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“I feel it has to do with — it’s a must to ask them, however I feel it has to do with, there are credentials or standards which might be concerned aside from on-the-floor stuff. Perhaps her GPA, stuff like that,” Mulkey stated.

LSU forward Angel Reese was left off the Wooden Award finalist list, and it's unclear what criteria she may have failed to meet. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

LSU ahead Angel Reese was left off the Picket Award finalist record, and it is unclear what standards she could have failed to satisfy. (AP Picture/Matthew Hinton)

The factors for the Wooden Award: candidates should exhibit power of character, each on and off the courtroom; candidates have to be full-time college students in an accredited NCAA faculty or college; candidates have to be making progress towards commencement and have a cumulative 2.00 grade level common since enrolling of their college; candidates should contribute to group effort; candidates should excel in each offense and protection; and candidates needs to be thought of on their efficiency over the course of the complete season.

Mulkey reduce off a query on if her star ahead, who transferred from Maryland over the summer season, was in good educational standing for the match.

“Oh, completely,” Mulkey stated. “She’s in good educational standing, interval. It’s simply there’s a standards on a few of these awards. Like a variety of them may have group service stuff. A few of them may have GPAs. Yeah. She’s academically superb.”

LSU lists eligibility requirements on its athletic web site that embody sustaining a full-time schedule, passing not less than six credit score hours per semester and 18 credit score hours per yr, and retaining a sure GPA upon the third semester of enrollment. Previous to the third semester, the minimal GPA is 1.8, and previous to the fifth semester is a 1.9 total GPA plus assembly 40% of his or her diploma necessities.

The Naismith is basically deemed essentially the most prestigious Participant of the 12 months award and retailers, led by the Related Press, award their very own gamers of the yr. The ten Naismith semifinalists might be launched on Wednesday and 4 finalists might be named on March 21. The winner is introduced on March 29.

The Basketball Corridor of Fame in partnership with the Ladies’s Basketball Coaches Affiliation (WBCA) awards a starting five.

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