A year ago at this time marked the final days of ESPN’s Three To See, as seniors Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne were in the final stretch of their standout collegiate careers at Baylor, Notre Dame and Delaware, respectively. The question many fans were asking at the time was who would be the next group of standouts to emerge.
Seniors Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford), Odyssey Sims (Baylor), Alyssa Thomas (Maryland), Stefanie Dolson (Connecticut), Bria Hartley (UConn) and Kayla McBride (Notre Dame) have certainly lived up to their pre-season All-American billing this season.
While those seniors shine in their final season, the story of the season has been the play of the underclassmen who have shown that the game is in good hands for the future. Playing beyond their years, sophomores Breanna Stewart (UConn), Jewell Loyd (Notre Dame), Jillian Alleyne (Oregon), Ameryst Alston (Ohio State) Tiffany Mitchell (South Carolina) and Nirra Fields (UCLA) to name a few, have emerged as team leaders, while freshmen Chrishae Rowe (Oregon), Kelsey Plum (Washington), Kaela Davis (Georgia Tech), Diamond DeShields (North Carolina), Jessica Jackson (Arkansas) and several others are some of the top scorers in the country, freshmen or otherwise.
It can be argued that this is one of the top freshmen classes in history, with a total of 60 freshmen and sophomores ranked in the top 250 players in scoring this season, with 16 of those being freshmen. In 2012-13, there were nine freshmen ranked in the top 250 in scoring.
The top-scoring sophomore this season is Kelsey Minato of Army, who is averaging 21.7 points per game, while Rowe tops all freshman at 21.8 points per game. Rowe’s teammate at Oregon, Alleyne averages 21.4 points and a national-best 15.7 rebounds per game.
Congratulations to the following teams which have clinched conference regular-season championships and for some, the No. 1 seed at their respective upcoming conference tournaments. Note that for the Mid-American and Ohio Valley conference’s, the No. 1 seeds are still be determined because those conference’s crown divisional champions.
• America East -- Albany
• Atlantic 10 -- Dayton
• Atlantic Coast -- Notre Dame
• Colonial -- James Madison
• Mid-American -- Central Michigan (West Division)
• Mountain West -- Colorado State
• Ohio Valley -- Tennessee-Martin (West Division)
• Pac-12 -- Stanford
• Southern -- Chattanooga
Around the division
South Carolina clinched at least a share of its first Southeastern Conference regular-season championship in school history last week. The Gamecocks won a pair of games, including their first win at Kentucky since 2008. Their home win against Florida this past Sunday was in front of the second-largest women’s basketball crowd at Colonial Life Arena with 10,547 fans in attendance.
Central Arkansas’ Courtney Duever has been a major part of the Sugar Bears’ rise to first place in the Southland Conference. In her most recent outing, Duever, a senior from Austin, Texas, scored a career-high 36 points against Oral Roberts in a 62-54 win. Duever’s 36 points ties the highest total for a conference player this season.
Geno Auriemma celebrated his 1,000th game as UConn’s head coach with another victory, when the Huskies won at Houston 92-41 this past Saturday.
The much-anticipated matchup between UConn and Louisville will take place on Monday at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. The Cardinals announced on Wednesday that only a limited number of tickets are remaining for the game in the 22,090 seat facility. The undefeated Huskies (28-0) are currently ranked No. 1 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, while Louisville (27-2) is No. 3. UConn defeated Louisville 81-64 in Storrs, Conn., on Feb. 9. The game is Senior Night for Louisville seniors Tia Gibbs, Shoni Schimmel, Antonita Slaughter and Asia Taylor.
Division I Basketball RPI Update
The Ratings Percentage Index ranks teams based upon a team's wins and losses and its strength of schedule and is one of many tools used by the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee in the selection and seeding process for the championship. Notre Dame has maintained the No. 1 RPI, followed by Stanford, Duke, Connecticut and South Carolina. The combined record for the top five RPI teams is 130-8.