Players to watch
Five who could catch lightning in a bottle
Seedings suggest these players won't be around for more than one game, but each could make that game one to remember or even prolong her team's stay.
Savannah Hill, Samford: Guarding a 6-foot-3 player who leads her team in assists and is capable of knocking down 3-pointers probably isn't what Florida State thought it was signing up for with a No. 3 seed. That works both ways -- there aren't a lot of posts like Florida State's Cierra Bravard in the Southern Conference -- but Hill is a matchup problem waiting to happen. She scored 20 points, including three 3-pointers, in a loss at Vanderbilt this season.
Jacqui Kalin, Northern Iowa: A 5-8 junior guard, Kalin is the scoring and assists leader for a Northern Iowa team that enters the NCAA tournament with a 15-3 record in road/neutral games and a propensity for hitting 3-pointers in bunches. In other words, she's a first-round headache for Michigan State, which dealt with a similar challenge last year in the first round against Bowling Green's Lauren Prochaska. Kalin is a streak shooter (31.9 percent from the 3-point line), but she'll get chances -- she averages just one turnover and one foul in 31.4 minutes per game.
Addie Micir, Princeton: No single player shouldered the burden when Princeton lost leading scorer Niveen Rasheed to a season-ending knee injury midway through the campaign; that responsibility instead was spread among a balanced lineup. But Micir could be the key against Georgetown. In games against Rutgers, Southern California and Vanderbilt earlier this season (Princeton's marquee nonleague games), Micir totaled just two turnovers in 109 minutes. She also enters Sunday's game shooting 47 percent on 3-pointers.
Quanneisha Perry, Hampton: Perry wasted no time making her presence felt this season, putting up 27 points and seven rebounds in a victory against James Madison, the kind of result that ultimately helped Hampton earn a better seed than often awaits the MEAC champion. She's undersized as a 5-10 double-double threat (12.7 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game), but for all of first-round opponent Kentucky's strengths, imposing size isn't one of them.
Jaleesa Ross, Fresno State: An all-conference selection in all four seasons with Fresno State, including first-team honors the past three seasons, Ross does more than a little of everything for the Bulldogs. She leads the team in scoring, assists and steals, and shares the lead in blocks. She also was last season's defensive player of the year in the WAC. Facing North Carolina's backcourt won't be easy, but it at least should provide a tempo that will allow her to get into the open court and make plays.
Five mid-seeded stars who won't go out quietly
The chalk says these players won't make it to the Sweet 16, but one or more might be around when the dust settles.
Maggie Lucas, Penn State: In the time it takes to read this sentence, Lucas probably could get through a rack of balls in a 3-point contest. The freshman is a shooter, and while it's not her only skill, it is the one Penn State needs to make it to the second weekend. It doesn't hurt that her first foray into the NCAA tournament comes at home, where she shot 48.2 percent from the 3-point line, compared to a still-healthy 40.4 percent in road/neutral games.
Shey Peddy, Temple: A standout at Wright State for two seasons, Peddy wasted no time earning the same label in her first season on the court in the Atlantic 10. The point guard is a big reason, perhaps the big reason, the Owls enter a first-round game against Arizona State with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and a 41.7 percent team field goal percentage, compared to running in the red on turnovers last season and shooting 38.7 percent from the field.
Shoni Schimmel, Louisville: Watch the freshman, and you sense that something of note is going to happen every time she touches the ball. At this stage, that's still a boom-or-bust proposition, but the 5-10 playmaker leads the Big East in 3-pointers, ranks third in assists and still has enough time with the ball to get to the free throw line almost five times a game. Her 3-point efficiency tailed off, but when those shots fall, she can win a game against almost anyone.
Kayla Standish, Gonzaga: A 6-2 junior, Standish is a veritable Home Depot of basketball tools. She is a dominant low-post presence for the Bulldogs who averaged almost nine rebounds and two blocks a game. And yet, an opponent might consider itself lucky if she spends the entire game on the block because it would mean she's not stepping out for the midrange jumper, squaring up and going off the dribble from the wing or running the floor like a wing.
Courtney Taylor, Houston: The senior is the two-time reigning Conference USA player of the year and the league's defensive player of the year this season. The Cougars were 25-3 with her this season; they were 1-2 without her, including a 40-point loss against Georgetown. And while Houston's leading scorer can finish possessions, she might be even better at creating them -- she has 58 steals and 43 blocks compared to just 46 turnovers.
Five supporting players who could help win a championship
Sydney Carter, Texas A&M: If Texas A&M needs a basket at the end of a game, the ball probably is going to All-American Danielle Adams. But if the Aggies are going to be in a position to draw up end-of-game plays beyond the Sweet 16, they're going to need people other than Adams to score consistently in the first 39 minutes. Valuable whether or not she scores, Carter nevertheless has the shooting range and penetration skills to be that player.
Kelly Faris, Connecticut: If nothing else, Faris knows her way around a championship celebration in Indianapolis, having won four state titles in the city with Heritage Christian High School, including three at Conseco Fieldhouse. Beyond geography, Faris remains the easiest part of Connecticut's starting lineup to overlook but every bit an equal part of its success. She is currently in the top two in assists, rebounds and steals for the Huskies. The only players in the past 10 seasons to finish ranked in the top two in all three categories? Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi.
Glory Johnson, Tennessee: Given that Johnson missed leading the Lady Vols in scoring in SEC play by three points, she's not exactly going to sneak up on anyone. But with Meighan Simmons, Angie Bjorklund and Shekinna Stricklen around, it's a deservedly crowded spotlight in Knoxville. That said, for all the great big players spread among the No. 1 seeds, none of them average more rebounds than Johnson's 9.6 boards per game (10.3 in SEC games).
Toni Kokenis, Stanford: To win a national title, Stanford will have to be even better than the team that beat Connecticut in December, just as Connecticut will have to be better than the team that beat Baylor, which will have to be better than the team that beat Tennessee, which will have to be better than the team that beat Stanford. A freshman guard with great quickness and an outside shot that found its range in Pac-10 play, Kokenis adds another dimension for the Cardinal, more experienced than the version of herself who played 33 minutes in the loss at Tennessee and more vital than the one who played seven minutes in the victory against Connecticut.
Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame: You know who has more offensive rebounds than Maya Moore, Brittney Griner, Nnemkadi and Chiney Ogwumike, and Amber Harris? Well, if it wasn't Peters, this would be a bit of a non sequitur. Finally healthy after multiple knee surgeries, and remarkably still explosive, Peters gives the Fighting Irish the kind of interior presence they've lacked against championship-caliber teams in recent seasons. Defense and rebounding are musts, but if she can be as aggressive on offense as she was during Big East play, it changes everything.
Graham Hays is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. E-mail him at Graham.Hays@espn3.com.
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