If you have not been a fan of NCAA Women’s basketball in the past, this is undoubtedly the year to start watching. This season is very promising to be both exciting and intense as some of the best players to ever go through the league all are after a singular national title.
As if winning the National Championship last year wasn’t enough for them, the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers added a huge asset to their roster during the offseason: University of Louisville’s star point guard Hailey Van Lith. Adding to such a talented team already, with 2023 Postseason Player of the Year Angel Reese and guard Flau’jae Johnson, is unheard of – think of it as similar to the 2017 Warriors signing Kevin Durant onto a team already packed with superstars. LSU will almost certainly make a huge playoff run with the talent and experience they have, especially with such a deep and well-rounded team. Reese also had a huge offseason including winning the ESPY, a yearly award given by ESPN, for Best Breakthrough Athlete, and still has two years left of eligibility to dominate. The Tigers did lose an early preseason game to the unranked Colorado Buffaloes, but they are expected to come back for a successful season.
The Iowa Hawkeyes, national finalists in the 2023 season, are also back with almost the exact same lineup as last year. If you only know one player on the women’s side, it’s probably Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, arguably the best active college basketball player. Averaging around 30 points per game, Clark earned the first-ever 40-point triple double multiple times, was the Player of the Year for the 2023 season, and is within reach of the NCAA women’s all-time scoring record within her career. Even beyond her stats, her game is incredible to watch as she seems to have a limitless range on the court and consistently drains long-range three pointers. Though Clark is definitely the main asset on the Hawkeyes, guards Gabby Marshall and Kate Martin were key players last season and look to make it all the way again. The Hawkeyes played in an exhibition match during the preseason with a crowd of over 55,000 spectators, showing their loyal fanbase and a general excitement around the team.
The University of Connecticut (UConn) is known for being a dynasty in women’s basketball, and is sure to be back stronger after not making the Final Four for the first time since 2007 this past year. Their key player Paige Bueckers was out an entire year due to an unfortunate ACL tear in the 2022 season but can return this year and looks to lead UConn to a long championship run. Bueckers has remained one of the most talented players in the NCAA since her freshman year, not only averaging around 20 points per game, but also earning countless honors such as the Naismith Trophy and the AP Player of the Year in 2021. She seems to be able to sink shots from anywhere on the court, and is a very smart and aware player, leading her team in assists and setting program records. Along with her teammate Azzi Fudd, who also missed a portion of the last season due to an injury, UConn will be out for revenge after a disappointing finish to their last season and their best players back.
Besides these powerhouses, other top teams look to make an impact this season. Look out for Stanford’s Cameron Brink, Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes to be huge point scorers and assets for their respective teams. The University of South Carolina’s famous head coach Dawn Staley also has a strong incoming freshman class that will likely carry them far.
This season’s heated rivalries, even more intense than last year, will make it that much more exciting to watch. Throughout the previous post-season tournament Caitlin Clark faced conflicts with both Angel Reese and Haley Van Lith when playing their teams, with both sides taunting the other after big plays. Now that the two are united, a game between LSU and Iowa will not only showcase great basketball, but also lead to an intense matchup and surely some drama. In addition, with the Pac-12 having their last season this year, it will be the end of the classic west coast rivalries as we know them, making each team want to clinch the last conference title even more.