New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT)


5 Players to watch

- — Christine Butterfiel­d

The roster of the top women’s college basketball programs are filled with talented players.

But a few will distinguis­h themselves this month. Remember UConn’s Final Four run a year ago? It took a unforgetta­ble performanc­e by Paige Bueckers in the double-overtime Elite Eight win over NC State to secure a Final Four berth.

The best players step up in March.

Who will it be this year? Here are five players to watch during March Madness: ALISSA PILI, UTAH Utah has shocked the women’s landscape and the 6-foot-2 Pili has been leading the charge for the Utes. The Pac-12 Player of the Year competes with so much power that when she drives to the rim it’s pretty much a done deal. She destroys defenders in the post but she’s equally as dangerous from behind the arc where she shoots a whopping 42.9 percent from deep.

An undeniable force on offense, Pili averages 20.3 points on 58.5 percent shooting from the floor. ALIYAH BOSTON, SOUTH CAROLINA South Carolina is chasing back-to-back national championsh­ips with Boston at the forefront.

Boston, a UConn recruiting target out of Worcester, Mass., casually averages almost a double-double per game (13.8 points and 9.7 rebounds). Her 74 career double-double is South Carolina’s record and her averages could be higher if she played more minutes — she averages 25.8 minutes as Dawn Staley looks to keep her healthy and rested.

Boston is also a stopper on the defensive end, where her 6-5 frame disrupts many shots and she averages two blocks a game. CAITLIN CLARKE, IOWA In case you were wondering the C’s in Caitlin Clarke really stand for, they stand for clutch. Her range is when she steps foot in the arena. Clarke can seriously make a shot from anywhere on the floor: off-balance, from the logo, behind the logo. Did you see her buzzer beater against No.2 Indiana in the season finale?

Her extended range means defenders are dragged to the deep perimeter in order to contest Clarke’s shots. The defensive pests don’t stop her from scoring 27.2 points, though, which ranks No. 2 in the country.

Clarke is not just your token outside shooter, because if guarded too close she will blow by you and finish a layup. ANGEL REESE, LSU Reese has the perfect post package. She can effortless­ly catch lobs with one hand and effortless­ly drop a smooth layup. And when it comes to snatching rebounds, Reese always puts herself in prime position to secure boards and easily make the putback.

This skill set translated to 23.4 points per game on 54.4 percent shooting, and 15.5 rebounds per game.

A 6-3 transfer from Maryland, she emerged as one of the best players in the country for a team that was ranked in the top 5. LSU will go as far as Reese takes it. HALEY JONES, STANFORD The senior guard came to Stanford as the No. 1 recruit in the country in 2019, two spots ahead of Boston. She led the Cardinal to a national title in 2021 and was a big part of last year’s Final Four team.

This season, she’s averaging 13.1 points and 9.1 rebounds for a team that spent much of the season at No. 2 in the national rankings.

Jones is a triple threat offensivel­y, she has court vision and is a skilled passer but is comfortabl­e putting the ball on the floor to drive in for a basket or kick it out to her teammates.

As much of a passing threat as a scoring one, Jones will be ready to score as well as facilitate many passes for her teammate and friend Cameron Brink in the paint.

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