March Madness: 7 women’s basketball players to watch in the NCAA tournament

This year’s NCAA Tournament boasts an exceptional class of freshmen, as well as a group of seniors who have hit a new groove. With the rapid growth in women’s college basketball viewership, they are all ready to compete on a bigger stage than ever.

last season, South Carolina beat UCLA in the most watched women’s title game since 2004.. The momentum has continued this season as South Carolina’s loss to LSU has become the most popular. Women’s regular season college basketball game since 2010. Like the whole season, South Carolina’s Alia Boston, LSU’s Angel Reese, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Villanova’s Maddie Siegrist are must-see stars.

Here are the other players we’re excited to see in the tournament, in no particular order.

[Free bracket contests for both tourneys | Printable Women’s | Men’s]

Alia Edwards, University of Connecticut

Junior, striker

16.6 points, 9.2 rebounds

Edwards won the Big East Most Improved Player award earlier this month for a reason. The Husky’s injury problems have affected the entire team, with Paige Buekers (knee) and Ice Brady (knee) already out of action this season. Azzi Fudd returned to the Big East tournament after missing 22 games due to a knee injury. After suffering a leg injury and a broken nose, Edwards transferred to the University of California.

She entered the season with just three career double-doubles, all from her freshmen. She recorded 14 this season. In addition to being named Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player, she is one of the 10 finalists for the 2023 Naismith Player of the Year award. No. 2 seed (Seattle 3) The Huskies will have their eyes on Edwards as they look to win their 12th NCAA title.

Alia Edwards broke her nose in October and still wears a mask after it has healed.  (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Alia Edwards broke her nose in October and still wears a mask after it has healed. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Zia Cook, South Carolina

senior, security guard

15.3 points, 1.7 rebounds

Like Aaliyah Boston, Brea Beal and head coach Don Staley, Cook has received numerous awards and recognition for her role in the defending champions’ 32-0 success. Last season she was even awarded her own street in her hometown of Toledo. There has been an increase in performance in her senior season, which makes her even more interesting to watch.

She set career highs with 47.9% field goals and 79.7% from the free throw line, where she landed more than ever this season (four free throw attempts per game). Perhaps the most important improvement for the No. 1 seeded Gamecocks (Greenville 1) is averaging 1.7 turnovers per game.

Fluja Johnson, LSU

Freshman, security guard

11.8 points, 5.9 rebounds

As LSU defeated Georgia to reach the semi-finals of the SEC tournament, Johnson stepped up with solid shooting and important defensive boards. She went 5 of 7 of 3, adding to her impressive 21 points and eight rebounds. Playing with high school stars in Angel Reese and Alexis Morris, the freshman was praised from head coach Kim Mulkey for her transformation into a confident and relaxed player.

Johnson is also a rapper. She will bring the talent of an artist to her game as the 3rd placed Tigers (Greenville 2) head out to dance.

Coty McMahon, Ohio State

Freshman, go ahead

14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds

McMahon does it all for the No. 3 seed (Seattle 3) Buckeyes. This was demonstrated during the Big Ten tournament where she recorded two double-doubles and two 20-point performances in three games. During this time, McMahon averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.3 blocks. She was named to the all-tournament team after shooting 40% out of 3 from only five attempts and 50% from the field. She is also effective on the free throw line, shooting 82.6% of her attempts.

With deep range and the ability to finish off in paint, she will still be difficult to defend.

Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana

senior go ahead

22.3 points, 7.3 rebounds

Holmes not only scores well, but also defends hard. This season, she topped the No. 1 seed (Greenville 2) in scoring in over 20 games and scored double-digit points in every game. Capturing a career-high 5.2 defensive rebounds per game, her 1.9 blocks per game ranks second in the Big Ten and earns her the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Naismith College Player of the Year semi-finalist and John R. Wooden Award finalist showed off her approach to playing in paint during an ESPN segment last month:

Alyssa Pealy, Utah

Junior, striker

20.3 points, 5.4 rebounds

Pealy made history as the No. 2 seed (Greenville 2) Utes when she was named the program’s first Pac-12 Player of the Year. She leads the conference in scoring, posting double figures in all but one game this season, including 16 with at least 20 points. She won the same award for a stellar 2019-20 season at USC and transferred to Utah after an injury limited her playing time. She is also now a semi-finalist for the 2023 Naismith Trophy College and a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award.

Utah Jazz forward Alyssa Pealy will play an important role during the NCAA Tournament.  (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)
Utah Jazz forward Alyssa Pealy will play an important role during the NCAA Tournament. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)

Desi-Rae Young, UNLV

Junior, center

18.2 points, 10.2 rebounds

Young is the first player in Mountain West history to average 18-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and shoot over 60%. She led the conference in double-doubles with 17, when no one else in the conference had more than nine. Earlier this month, she won the conference tournament MVP award, leading her team to their second straight Mountain West title with 28 points and 17 rebounds.

Since her starring role in the #11 seed (Greenville 2) of UNLV’s success last season, she has improved in all statistical categories. This season she Finalist for Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year by Her Hoop Stats.


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