Dishin & Swishin 3/02/12 Podcast: Heading into the NCAA postseason, part two of a look at ten “game-changing players”
Throughout the NCAA women’s basketball season, Dishin & Swishin kept you up to date mostly through conversations with coaches and journalists. The reason for this is that at DNS, we respect how busy the schedules of the student-athletes can be and have tried not to disturb their routine. Now, you have all been so patient, it is time to get fired up for postseason play with a special two part, two-day podcast, featuring ten of the absolute best players in the nation, five yesterday and five today.
The focus is on the difference makers, the game changers and those that influence a game, the players that impact just about every game in which they play. I talked to all four of the favorites for National Player of the Year honors, a few conference players of the year and all-conference selections, and quite possibly one or two you may not know much about if you are not a devout women’s college hoops junkie. So let us continue with today’s five players.
So just how good are the Delaware Blue Hens? With an undefeated conference season, and only one loss, to sixth-ranked Maryland, it is probable that they will be considered for a three seed if not a two in the NCAA tournament. The Hens are led by 6-5 junior guard Elena Delle Donne. What can be said about her that you have not already heard? The leading scorer in the country at over 28 points per game, she also averages over 10 rebounds per game, and hits over 52 percent from the floor and 89 percent from the line. One of the big four that can be considered for national player of the year honors, Delle Donne is the leader of an underrated group of players that play within their abilities, and will go into the NCAA tournament with a legitimate chance of breaking through to the later rounds.
There might not be a sweeter story in NCAA women’s basketball than that of Sugar Rodgers. Rising up from a tough upbringing, minimal family life and a difficult neighborhood, Rodgers has thrived at Georgetown, not only becoming the school career record holder in three-pointers made after only three years, but on the road to a timely graduation. She does not get the credit from some that she deserves, because she is a high volume shooter, and does not have the greatest field goal percentage. But people do not seem to realize that she is the Georgetown’s best shot at scoring points and her shot totals give the Hoyas their best shot at winning. A mid-season USBWA and Wade watch list member, Rodgers has her team at No. 12 in the Associated Press poll, and No. 14 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll. Georgetown is also the fourth seed in the Big East tournament, with a double-bye until Sunday. Rodgers must be doing something right.
It is hard to believe that the No. 5 team in the coaches’ poll is only the third seed in their own conference tournament, but that is the case with the Maryland Terrapins and the ACC. One upset loss to Virginia Tech is the difference, and that game was played without my next guest, the conference player of the year and first team all-conference performer Alyssa Thomas. Only a sophomore, Thomas has become one of the best forwards in the country already, averaging over sixteen points and seven rebounds per game. She scored at least twenty points eleven times this season, while playing the most difficult schedule in the conference. It will certainly be fun to watch what Thomas does in the postseason, both in the conference tournament and the big dance.
Skylar Diggins exploded on the social media scene during last year’s NCAA tournament. The South Bend native has thrived at Notre Dame, and is one of the reasons the Irish are number three in the country, winners of the Big East regular season title, and perhaps the best threat to knock off Baylor in the NCAA tournament. Friday night, she most likely will be named Big East Player of the Year. Diggins leads the Irish in scoring at over seventeen points per game, but even though she is a point guard, she hits 52 percent of her shots. A finalist for the Lieberman award, she has an impressive 2.26 assist to turnover ratio. As the Irish make their way through the difficult Big East and NCAA tournament, you will see why this junior is a candidate for national player of the year and is sure to make first team all-American.
The Princeton Tigers, this year’s Ivy League regular season champions, have been one of the great stories this season in women’s basketball. They are the first team to qualify for the NCAA tournament since the Ivy League does not have postseason playoffs. Niveen Rasheed, a member of the mid-season USBWA player of the year watch list, leads the team. Last season she suffered a season-ending ACL injury prior to the start of conference play. She did not receive clearance to play until October. Rasheed has not missed a beat, scoring in double figures in 23 of 25 games, while averaging 16.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. An AAU teammate of Duke’s Chelsea Gray, Rasheed has the Tigers poised to be the first Ivy team to crack the top 25 of the AP poll. You may not have heard much about her or seen her since she is in the Ivy league, but this is one player you do not want to miss if you get the chance to watch her play.
So there you have it: ten of many players that could have a dramatic impact on the postseason conference and national women’s basketball tournaments. It was my pleasure to talk to each of these ladies, and they are each a credit to their universities. I hope you have enjoyed hearing their own words, and are as psyched as I am for postseason play!