The bracket is out, and we know everyone’s potential path to Dallas. But who will be the leaders on that journey for the best women’s college basketball teams?
For the third time this season, we’re ranking the top 25 players in the country — but we’ve limited it to the best players competing in the 2023 women’s NCAA tournament.
Some prominent names are missing, including UConn guard Azzi Fudd. She was in our top three in December’s ranking, but has appeared in just 12 games this season because of injury. Similarly, Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon made our last list, but has played only nine games. Because of their limited playing time, they didn’t meet the criteria for inclusion. But fear not: ESPN will update the list heading into the Sweet 16, at which point they and others might play their way into the ranking.
Players such as Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles, whose injury status is still unclear, were ranked based on what we have seen of their recent play.
The national player of the year debate this season has centered largely around Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, with passionate supporters on both sides for great reasons. As a point guard and a post, they couldn’t be more different in their skill sets. Both have excelled all season at what they do the best. But there can be only one at the No. 1 spot.
ESPN’s Alexa Philippou, Charlie Creme and M.A. Voepel rank the players as we get ready for March Madness to materialize.
Brackets are open! Head to Women’s Tournament Challenge and fill out your bracket now! And click here for a printable bracket.
Guard | 6-foot | junior
2022-23 stats: 27.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 8.3 APG
Clark won Big Ten Player of the Year and league tournament MVP, both for the second season in a row. The essence of why Clark is so good can be summed up this way: She’s No. 1 in Division I in assists and in 3-pointers (108), and second in scoring average. With the ball in her hands, Clark has her choice of ways to carve up defenses, and almost always makes the right decision. She’s making reads at a pro level, even as a college junior. Her “logo 3s” are a legitimate part of her game, not just in stretching out the defense but the way they can energize the Hawkeyes and deflate the opposition. Clark’s four triple-doubles this season — and 10 in her career — reflect her strong work on the boards, too, and she also has improved as a defensive player. — Voepel
Forward | 6-foot-5 | senior
2022-23 stats: 13.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 56.8 FG%
Statistically speaking, this is Boston’s worst season since her freshman year. But don’t think for a second there is anything wrong with Boston’s game. She remains the most imposing defensive player in the game, and when South Carolina really needs a basket, Boston is getting the ball. The dropoff in the numbers is more a result of the Gamecocks facing less urgency in their games and having more reliable options on the roster this season. But in their biggest games against Maryland, Stanford, UCLA, UConn and LSU, Boston averaged 17.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. — Creme
Why did Stanford get the edge over UConn for the 1-seed?
Lisa Peterson, committee chair of NCAA Division I women’s basketball, explains the thought process behind filling out the women’s bracket.
Forward | 6-foot-4 | junior
2022-23 stats: 14.9 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.4 BPG
Brink continues to be a force for the Cardinal, leading them in points, rebounds and blocks despite averaging only 24.5 minutes per game. Earlier this year she recorded a triple-double, and she also set a program record for career blocks. With Stanford’s offense sputtering in recent weeks, she can’t be the only reliable option on that end of the floor, but she’ll still need to be her dominant self, and to stay out of foul trouble, if the Cardinal want to advance to a third consecutive Final Four. — Philippou
Forward | 6-foot-3 | senior
2022-23 stats: 22.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 68.8 FG%
Holmes is second in Division I — and first among Power 5 conference players — in field goal percentage, which is why her teammates refer to her as an automatic bucket. Once Holmes gets the ball where she wants it, the odds are overwhelming that she will score, the defense will foul her, or both. Her 70.1 true shooting percentage (2-pointers, 3-pointers, free throws) and 40.3 player efficiency rating this season are both career highs. Holmes has blocked 56 shots and is the centerpiece inside of the best defense in the Big Ten. She plans to use the COVID-19 waiver to play a fifth year at Indiana next season. — Voepel
Forward | 6-foot-3 | sophomore
2022-23 stats: 23.4 PPG, 15.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 54.0 FG%
Few expected this kind of season from LSU, and much of the success is due to the play of Reese. After a highly productive sophomore season at Maryland, Reese moved on to LSU and took her game to another level. Her dominance around the rim is evidenced by her nation-leading 28 double-doubles. Reese also leads the country in offensive rebounds and free throws attempted and made per game. After staying more in the background at Maryland, Reese has embraced her leadership role with the Tigers, whose NCAA tournament success will largely ride on how she performs. — Creme
Forward | 6-foot-6 | senior
2022-23 stats: 18.6 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.3 BPG
The back-to-back ACC Player of the Year is the centerpiece of a team that emerged as the best in one of the toughest leagues. She has continued to be efficient down low (a career-high 56.3% from the field) and a force on the glass, averaging a double-double for the second time in her career. She put the Hokies on her back with a 42-point outburst in their first-round loss to Florida Gulf Coast in last year’s tournament, but she’ll have more help this time around on a Hokies team focused on a Final Four bid. — Philippou
Guard | 6-foot-3 | senior
2022-23 stats: 19.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.1 SPG
A two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection, Miller has great length and quickness on the perimeter, which she uses to her advantage on offense and defense. She creates mismatches inside and has scored in double digits in every game this season except one, including a season-high 32 points against Baylor. One of her biggest baskets of the season was her buzzer-beating fadeaway to defeat Notre Dame in December. Miller is in the Big Ten’s top five in scoring, blocked shots and steals. She’s shooting a career-low 21% from behind the arc, so that’s an area of improvement for her at the next level; she’s projected to be a lottery pick in April’s WNBA draft. — Voepel
Why UConn is a dangerous team heading into the Big Dance
Rebecca Lobo makes the case that UConn is the favorite to win the Seattle Regional despite being a 2-seed.
Forward | 6-foot-3 | junior
2022-23 stats: 16.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 57.3 FG%
With Fudd’s absence and the host of injuries UConn has experienced, there’s no telling where the Huskies would be without Edwards, who rebounded from a rocky sophomore season to put herself in the All-American conversation. Geno Auriemma has said his posts will determine how far his team goes in the tournament, and if Edwards can play like she has against top competition this season — including South Carolina (25 points, 10-for-14 shooting) — UConn will be in great shape. — Philippou
Forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
2022-23 stats: 28.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG
Caitlin Clark gets most of the headlines for her offense, but Siegrist enters March Madness as the nation’s leading scorer, and she’s doing it on incredible efficiency (51.8% from the field, 37.3% from 3, 85.1% from the line). Siegrist has scored at least 20 points in each of the Wildcats’ games this season (and even had 50 against Seton Hall earlier this year), but her primary focus down the stretch is to lead Villanova into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003. — Philippou
Forward | 6-foot-2 | junior
2022-23 stats:20.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 58.5 FG%
Coming out of nowhere to win Pac-12 Player of the Year, Pili has transformed the Utes from an upstart program to a national title contender. She wasn’t even on the 15-player preseason all-conference team but ended up leading the league in scoring as Utah shared the Pac-12 regular-season title with Stanford, a first for the program. Pili had an outstanding freshman season at USC but struggled with injuries the past two seasons before making the move to Salt Lake City. She’s a dual-threat offensive player with an uncanny ability to finish in the post, but also shoots 42.9% from 3-point territory. — Creme
Seven SEC women’s teams prepare for March Madness
SEC Now analyst Steffi Sorensen says the committee got it right by including six other conference teams with No. 1 South Carolina in the NCAA tournament field.
Forward | 6-foot-2 | senior
2022-23 stats: 19.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 55.2 FG%
Jackson’s first few months in Tennessee (which included a two-game suspension in December) were a bit rocky, but she has settled and contributed immensely to the Lady Vols’ upswing. She managed at least 20 points in eight consecutive games — with nearly 60% efficiency, no less — before Tennessee fell to South Carolina in the SEC tournament final. Jackson also stepped up with a 26-point, 10-rebound game in Tennessee’s semifinal upset over LSU. Her talent is undeniable and she’ll have plenty of eyes on her in the weeks before she is expected to be a first-round WNBA draft pick. — Philippou
Guard | 6-foot-1 | senior
2022-23 stats: 13.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, 43.1 FG%
Jones is one of Stanford’s most important and best rebounders and the Cardinal’s chief facilitator. While she has shared more clutch moments with Brink this season, Jones remains a big shot-taker for Stanford. She hit the deciding shots for the Cardinal in their 2021 Final Four semifinal and final wins, forever etching her place in Stanford history. Jones has struggled with her outside shooting this season but remains one of the most versatile offensive players in the country with her dual-threat ability as a perimeter passer and post-up threat. — Creme
Guard/forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
2022-23 stats: 21.5 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.0 APG
During the Big 12 tournament, Joens passed the 3,000-point mark for her career, making her one of just 14 NCAA Division I women’s players who’ve done so. She’s now at 3,037 points and owns Iowa State’s career records for points, rebounds, double-doubles, field goals, free throws and 3-pointers, and this season became the second Cyclone to win Big 12 Player of the Year. She is also the second Cyclone to be named Big 12 tournament Most Outstanding Player after Iowa State won the title for the first time since 2001. Joens adjusted her game when Iowa State added 6-6 center Stephanie Soares, then readjusted when Soares was lost for the season in early January with a knee injury. The fifth-year senior has started and played more games (157) than anyone in Big 12 women’s hoops history. — Voepel
Guard | 5-foot-10 | sophomore
2022-23 stats: 14.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 6.9 APG, 2.1 SPG
The knee injury Miles suffered in the regular-season finale against Louisville remains one of the most talked about storylines heading into the NCAA tournament. That’s because she’s that talented of a point guard and is that important to Notre Dame’s success. Her ability to play free of injury concerns will likely determine the Irish’s postseason fate. The most dynamic passer in the game, Miles is sixth in the country in assists and her ability to rebound and handle the ball makes her a one-player fast break. She has 10 double-doubles this season — five with points and assists and five with points and rebounds. — Creme
Guard | 5-foot-6 | sophomore
2022-23 stats: 11.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.3 APG
Harmon was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year this season, and also led the league in assists per game and assist-turnover ratio (2.4). There’s no one quite like her in the Big 12 and few in any other league. She’s capable of playing intense on-the-ball defense for 40 minutes if needed, while still being an elite offensive player and never seeming to tire. Harmon missed the first five games of the season with a foot injury, and Texas lost three of them. Her return steadied things for the Longhorns, who were Big 12 regular-season co-champions, although they didn’t repeat as league tournament champs. — Voepel
Guard | 5-foot-6 | junior
2022-23 stats: 15.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.3 APG
For as brilliant as Kitley has been in recent weeks, Amoore’s elevated play has been key to the Hokies’ success, as she has averaged 17.6 points (40% shooting from 3) throughout their 11-game win streak. In their prior games, she averaged 14.1 points and 31.4% shooting from the perimeter. She also set the ACC tournament record for made 3-pointers (14) on her way to winning MVP, and that’s not to mention her driving or distribution abilities. If Amoore gets going, it makes it much easier for Kitley to operate, and Virginia Tech that much tougher to beat. — Philippou
Boston, Staley talk familiarity of NCAA regional teams
Aliyah Boston and Dawn Staley discuss facing some of the teams in the Greenville Regional this year, saying No. 1 South Carolina “can’t put the cart before the horse.”
17. Zia Cooke, South Carolina
Guard | 5-foot-9 | senior
2022-23 stats: 15.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.1 APG
Cooke has been the No. 1 team’s leading scorer this season and has really come into her own. Her 57 3-pointers are a career high, as are her 102 free throws and 80% shooting at the line. As a senior, she has a career-best true shooting percentage (52.6), player efficiency rating (24.1) and offensive rating (119.5). And even in games in which Cooke may not be at her best offensively, there’s been no dropoff in her contributions on the defensive end, where the Gamecocks almost always control games. — Voepel
Forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
2022-23 stats: 15.7 PPG, 43.0% 3FG
Edwards has been critical for the Huskies, but so too has Lopez Sénéchal, who in some ways has been even more consistent this season. The Fairfield transfer has been a revelation in Storrs and has been clutch in big moments for a UConn team that was often short-handed, particularly shining in the Huskies’ big road win at Tennessee (26 points). Life might get even easier for her in March with Fudd back in the lineup and demanding attention from opposing defenses along the perimeter. — Philippou
Forward/center | 6-foot-3 | senior
2022-23 stats: 17.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 67.4 FG%
Czinano is fourth in Division I in field goal percentage and has been Caitlin Clark’s favorite target the past three seasons. For good reason: Czinano is so fundamentally sound on the low block, with great hands, positioning and strength. She also can hit face-up shots in her comfort range. She set an Iowa single-game record for field goal percentage by going 11-of-11 against Michigan State this season, and the Big Ten tournament mark by going 11-of-12 against Ohio State in the championship game. The fifth-year senior is second on Iowa’s career scoring list (2,316 points) behind only Megan Gustafson (2,804), who was Czinano’s freshman season mentor. — Voepel
Guard | 6-foot-2 | senior
2022-23 stats: 15.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 SPG
Long and athletic, Horston has been a cornerstone on Rocky Top for four years. The offense has never been built around her, but she has remained one of the SEC’s best shot creators. With the ballhandling skills of a smaller guard and the ability to finish, Horston excels in transition. Averaging 17 points and 8.6 rebounds in three SEC tournament games, she helped propel the Lady Vols to the final, and she has scored in double figures in all but two games in February and March. — Creme
Center | 6-foot-7 | junior
2022-23 stats: 10.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.0 BPG
No player is as critical to South Carolina’s depth as Cardoso, who is nearly averaging a double-double in just 18.7 minutes per game. She can play either in place of Boston or alongside her and will wear down opponents with her big-time blocks and relentlessness on the offensive glass (3.7 offensive boards per game). As great as Boston is and as much as Cooke has improved offensively, Cardoso is the Gamecocks’ X factor in their quest to repeat as national champions. — Philippou
Guard | 6-foot | senior
2022-23 stats: 12.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.8 APG
She missed eight games after suffering a knee injury in November but came back in January and was immediately effective. Berger is a respected on-court leader and reliable playmaker who uses her size and strength to penetrate and score or dish off. She doesn’t shoot the 3-pointer a lot (she has made 47 in her career), but she’s one of the best midrange shooters in the country. Berger has been an important cog in Indiana’s Big Ten-best defense as well, and a major factor in the Hoosiers’ rise to a national power the past few seasons. — Voepel
Guard | 6-foot-1 | sophomore
2022-23 stats: 14.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 43.9 3PT FG%
When Miles went down with her injury, the Irish immediately turned to Citron, and she came through. Her 27-point performance in the regular-season finale against Louisville, a victory in which Miles was hurt, delivered Notre Dame the ACC regular-season championship. As flashy as Miles can be, Citron is the opposite. Precise and business-like in her approach, Citron rarely takes a bad shot or forces a play and is steady in her demeanor and production. — Creme
Guard | 5-foot-6 | senior
2022-23 stats: 15.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.2 APG
Morris has an inspiring story of perseverance. After being on the all-Big 12 freshman team at Baylor in 2018, she was dismissed for a violation of team rules by then-Bears coach Kim Mulkey and transferred to Rutgers. Things didn’t work out there, and she went to Texas A&M. Then last year, she sought out Mulkey to play for her again, this time at LSU, and has had two terrific seasons for the Tigers. She’s currently their second-leading scorer and leads LSU in assists and steals. Morris has hit 45 3-pointers this season and is also explosive going to the basket. — Voepel
G | 5-foot-10 | junior
2022-23 stats: 18.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.2 APG
Perhaps it only feels like Leger-Walker has taken every big shot for the Cougars since her arrival in Pullman from Waikato, New Zealand, three years ago. She has been the focal point of the offense since her first game, which happened to be a 20-point, seven-rebound effort against rival Washington. Not coincidentally, the past two seasons have been the winningest in the history of the program, which culminated with the Pac-12 tournament championship two weeks ago, the first tournament title in Cougars history. Leger-Walker was the Most Outstanding Player with 23 points in the final against UCLA. — Creme