ShutMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, ladies’s school basketball, and different school sports activities for espnW. Voepel started protecting ladies’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
Editor’s observe: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Mechelle Voepel, Rebecca Lobo and LaChina Robinson voted for espnW’s end-of-season awards.
Iowa heart Megan Gustafson received the respect each for her game-after-game consistency and her big-game fireworks. For the second 12 months in a row, she led the nation in scoring, defying each sort of protection designed to sluggish her down. And he or she dominated the boards, too, averaging a double-double (28.zero PPG and 13.Three RPG) this season.
In line with Her Hoop Stats, Gustafson is atop Division I not simply in scoring common however taking pictures proportion (69.6), area objectives made (369), area objectives made per sport (11.5) and factors per scoring try (1.44).
Gustafson already was a number one candidate because the nation’s prime participant, however she slammed the door shut with an epic efficiency in main Iowa to its first Huge Ten event title since 2001.
The nation’s main scorer, the NCAA file holder for triple-doubles and certainly one of UConn’s most prolific scorers lead espnW’s All-People.
Marquette entered Tuesday’s Huge East ultimate with an opportunity to interrupt into the highest 16 and host a regional. As an alternative, DePaul pulled off the upset to enhance its seed.
Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, Louisville’s Asia Durr and Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan are the projected prime three picks in espnW’s mock draft.
Gustafson had 30 factors and 17 rebounds in Iowa’s 70-61 quarterfinal victory over Indiana, avenging a regular-season loss to the Hoosiers. Iowa trailed with simply greater than Four minutes remaining within the sport, however coach Lisa Bluder mentioned the Hawkeyes by no means misplaced their confidence.
“They hold believing in themselves a lot, they usually additionally know they have Megan,” Bluder mentioned. “So I believe that is sort of a giant aid for everyone, too.”
Gustafson then had 20 factors and 12 rebounds in a 72-67 semifinal victory over Rutgers. She saved the very best for final: 45 and 10 within the ultimate over Maryland, which Iowa received 90-76.
“She’s an amazing participant. She’s an All-American,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese mentioned. “She is aware of find out how to end, both shoulder, nice contact across the rim.”
It was candy redemption for Gustafson and the Hawkeyes, who’d beforehand by no means superior past the Huge Ten quarterfinals in her profession.
“This can be a sport I will bear in mind for the remainder of my life,” Gustafson mentioned after the ultimate. “That is what I wished coming to Iowa. I wished a Huge Ten championship. I simply could not be extra happy with how our workforce performed, and it is a dream come true.”
Now the Hawekeyes will attempt to have one other run, this time within the NCAA event. Iowa performed within the WNIT in Gustafson’s first two seasons, and misplaced to Creighton within the first spherical of final 12 months’s NCAA event.
Gustafson is the Hawkeyes’ all-time main scorer (2,700) and rebounder (1,403), and one of many extra dominant gamers in Huge Ten historical past.
At 6-foot-Three, Gustafson has nice palms and an unrelenting dedication to making an attempt to get open and supply a goal for her teammates. By no means thoughts the double or triple groups, Gustafson battles via the protection. She is taking pictures 65.5 % for her Iowa profession, and she or he has despatched many a discouraged defender to the bench.
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The Hawkeyes (26-6 total, 14-Four in Huge Ten) defeated Maryland 86-73 of their regular-season matchup in Iowa Metropolis. Gustafson had 31 factors and 17 rebounds in that sport. Within the rematch within the Huge Ten ultimate, the three Terps who primarily guarded Gustafson all fouled out.
“Megan is so sturdy, so bodily, and only a very tough match-up, clearly, for us,” Frese mentioned. “It simply actually impacted us due to simply the great foul hassle that we had been in.
“She’s simply that good. The primary time we performed them, we tried to run quite a lot of triangle-and-two and completely different appears at her, and it did not repay. We tried to entrance; we tried to have nice help-side protection.”
Frese’s laments had been expressed by all of Iowa’s opponents. Defenses had been arrange particularly to sluggish her down, however she had a double-double in each sport however two, when she simply missed on the rebounding facet.
Bluder has watched Gustafson develop right into a Hawkeyes legend.
“Nothing she does surprises me anymore,” Bluder mentioned. “No matter we give her, she simply goes after it and she or he does it.”
Regardless of graduating 4 starters, Vic Schaefer has navigated Mississippi State to its first SEC event title and certain one other No. 1 seed within the NCAA event. Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports activities
Coach of the 12 months: Mississippi State’s Vic Schaefer
Mississippi State has had quite a lot of nice moments throughout its rise within the SEC and nationally in ladies’s basketball. However Vic Schaefer desires extra.
That is the Bulldogs’ motto this season: to get that one further victory in each the SEC and NCAA tournaments. One mission has been achieved: Mississippi State received the league event for the primary time in program historical past after dropping within the ultimate the earlier three years.
Can the Bulldogs — who’ve misplaced within the nationwide championship sport the final two seasons — additionally go a step additional on the Huge Dance? That is still to be seen, however Mississippi State has probably earned a No. 1 seed within the NCAA event once more.
It has all occurred regardless of the Bulldogs dropping 4 starters for the second season in a row. Sure, Mississippi State has one of many nation’s prime weapons in heart Teaira McCowan. However the way in which Schaefer has reconfigured the workforce round her — whereas dropping simply two video games — earned him espnW nationwide coach of the 12 months honors.
Mississippi State beat Arkansas within the SEC ultimate 101-70, with McCowan incomes event MVP honors to go together with regular-season SEC participant of the 12 months.
“Now we have had some actually good groups, y’all, that is gotten to this sport,” Schaefer mentioned after the ultimate, “they usually could not get it executed on Sunday. We talked about this workforce had an opportunity to separate themselves and be that workforce that would get it executed.”
It occurred in Schaefer’s seventh season in Starkville. After serving to coach Gary Blair win an NCAA title at Texas A&M in 2011, Schaefer took over Mississippi State earlier than the 2012-03 season. Schaefer is 191-55 with the Bulldogs, who’ve received the SEC regular-season title the previous two seasons.
“We talked about this workforce had an opportunity to separate themselves and be that workforce that would get it executed.”
Coach Vic Schaefer on Mississippi State successful its first SEC tourney title
In 2018, Mississippi State misplaced the NCAA championship sport 61-58 on a buzzer-beating Three-pointer by Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale, and Schaefer beat himself up afterward. The Bulldogs had come so shut, a 12 months after falling within the NCAA ultimate to South Carolina.
4 seniors departed after the 2018 season. However McCowan was again, and the Bulldogs had elite graduate switch Anriel Howard are available from Texas A&M. Plus three reserves — Jordan Danberry, Jazzmun Holmes and Chloe Bibby — had been able to step into beginning roles. That lineup misplaced simply as soon as: 82-74 at Oregon on Dec. 18.
Then the Bulldogs misplaced Bibby, their prime Three-point shooter, to a knee damage in a victory on Jan. 17. However one other switch, sophomore guard Andra Espinoza-Hunter, elevated into the beginning function and has offered wanted perimeter taking pictures. She has 58 Three-pointers, together with eight within the SEC ultimate.
After the championship sport, McCowan was requested in regards to the Bulldogs’ capacity to play with excessive vitality three days in a row.
“We simply know we will not give in,” she mentioned. “Coach at all times says, ‘These video games are about toughness.’ Whether or not it is being mentally powerful or bodily powerful, we nonetheless should be in that second. We nonetheless should dial in, simply discover a technique to struggle via the sport.”
The place does that management instance come from? McCowan gestured towards Schaefer and mentioned, “Him.”
A 6-foot-2 guard, Rhyne Howard can shoot over quite a lot of different guards but in addition submit up. She is averaging 16.Three PPG and 6.7 rebounds, and has 68 Three-pointers this season. Britney Howard/UK Athletics
Freshman of the 12 months: Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard
Rhyne Howard took little time to make her presence recognized in school basketball. The Kentucky freshman scored 29 factors in her second sport of the season, and it was clear the Wildcats had a budding star. She carried that momentum via the season and is the espnW nationwide freshman of the 12 months.
Howard additionally earned All-SEC first-team honors and was SEC freshman of the 12 months as Kentucky (24-7 total, 11-5 in league) completed fourth. The Wildcats had been upset within the quarterfinals of the SEC event by Missouri in extra time, however Howard placed on a present, scoring 25 factors.
“So many performs within the sport at present the place she’s simply tremendous particular,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell mentioned afterward. “She simply is so gifted and proficient.
“The concept right here now could be simply to maintain making an attempt to get higher day-after-day, hold making an attempt to study some nuances of the sport that may assist her grow to be a good higher participant. She was dynamite. We would not have had an opportunity to win the sport had she not performed the way in which that she did.”
“She was dynamite. We would not have had an opportunity to win the sport had she not performed the way in which that she did.”
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell on Rhyne Howard’s 25-point efficiency within the SEC tourney quarters
Howard was the Gatorade participant of the 12 months in Tennessee as a senior at Bradley Central Excessive College. However she did not keep in her house state, opting as an alternative for Kentucky. She is averaging 16.Three factors — seventh-most within the SEC this season — 6.7 rebounds and a couple of.Three assists.
A 6-foot-2 guard, she is ready to take benefits of mismatches on the perimeter and inside. Her measurement means she will shoot over quite a lot of different guards, and she will additionally submit up towards anybody. She has made 68 Three-pointers this season, probably the most ever for a real freshman at Kentucky.
Howard’s 489 factors are third-most by a Kentucky freshman; with three extra, she is going to bypass A’dia Mathies for second place. First is Valerie Nonetheless, the all-time main scorer in Kentucky ladies’s or males’s basketball historical past. Nonetheless is being inducted into the Girls’s Basketball Corridor of Fame this summer season.
Being in the identical dialog as Nonetheless and Mathies is big-time for a Kentucky ladies’s basketball participant. Howard’s 200 rebounds and 64 steals each rank third in Wildcat historical past for a freshman.
Howard has an opportunity to make much more of an impression as a freshman, as Kentucky awaits an at-large NCAA event bid.
“You return to the movie, take care of the info,” Mitchell mentioned. “Right here is the place you may get higher, right here is the place you’ll be able to enhance. That is what we’ll do with Rhyne. We’re actual proud she’s a Wildcat.”