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NCAA Basketball: The Top Players to Watch This Season

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With no nets cut down for the 2019-20 season, it seems anachronous that another season should tip off. Nevertheless, here we are in the second week of November, and by the end of the month we will have college basketball.

Between the WNBA draft, the transfer portal and a sparkling class of freshman, there will be plenty of change for this upcoming season. (At the same time, UConn and South Carolina are again predicted to be among the game’s best, so has anything really changed at all?)

For one, a heavy fan presence inside arenas on game day seems pretty unlikely. While some programs have announced that they’ll allow between 15-25% capacity for home games, the vast majority of spectators will be tuning in from the comfort of their living room.

Regardless of how you catch them in action, below are the six players who I believe will define college hoops this year. From a unique freshman sensation to veteran players looking to boost their draft stock, these are the players to stop and watch when you’re flipping through the channels during this season like no other.

In no particular order…



In the spring, we posed the question, “Will Paige Bueckers save UConn?” The answer then, and now, seems to be yes. The top recruit arrives at Hartford with the weight of the most decorated program on her shoulders, but everyone from her coach to her more than half a million social media followers expects her to perform in year one.

The words “generational talent” have been thrown around a lot with regards to Bueckers, and she is going to a program that has developed more than a few. The freshman point guard will have more eyes on her than anyone when she debuts on the collegiate stage. It is not a stretch to say that UConn’s ceiling in this pandemic season will depend on how quickly Bueckers is able to fare in the transition. Expectations are so high, it’s unlikely she’ll exceed them. But watching to see if Buckers can live up to the hype is enough of a reason to keep an eye on the Huskies.



The top-ranked player in her class, Jones looked the part throughout her injury-shortened freshman season. Starting the final 12 games of the season, Jones averaged 12.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game over that span. Her shooting translated to the collegiate level at a 52.8% rate, and while the schedule difficulty was not exactly equal, Stanford was 16-2 with Jones in the lineup and 11-4 without her. With Jones healthy, Stanford was able to peak at No. 1 in the AP Poll without DiJonai Carrington or Maya Dodson, a critical sign for Cardinal fans, as neither player is available for this season. (Go deeper: read our summer interview with Haley Jones here.)



The Freshman of the Year is poised to make an even bigger splash in year two with South Carolina. On a young team last year, Boston averaged 12.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game for a team that went 32-1 and ended the year as the No. 1 team in the AP poll. After shooting an efficient 60.8% from the field, Boston’s game could expand as she grows into the midrange from her spot at center.

Arguably, Boston may need to assume an even bigger role, despite already being First-Team All-SEC last year and the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. Her freshman season dazzled, but with the loss of Ty Harris and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, South Carolina will need to find more production. No one would argue that Boston is not prepared, but watching her go to work is sure to be a treat.



Oregon and UConn vied for Carrington, but in the end the Stanford graduate chose to take her fifth year at Baylor. An elite scorer with a significant rebounding presence, Carrington will fit right in on a team that has previously incorporated high-profile transfers Chloe Jackson and Te’a Cooper.

Surrounded by talent and a coach that knows how to push all the right buttons, Carrington is a candidate to reach new heights. While the effects of her physical injuries remain to be seen, everything from Carrington’s past would suggest that she should flourish in any environment. She scored 14.0 points and hauled in 7.5 rebounds per game in her breakout junior season, with Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer expecting even more in a senior season that lasted just five games. Instead, Kim Mulkey will get to see what a full-strength Carrington can contribute in her lineup.



For the second straight year, McDonald led the Pac-12 in steals, nabbing 2.3 per game last season and winning the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award for her efforts. Impressive in its own right, McDonald also averaged 20.6 points per game to lead the conference for the second straight year, becoming the first in the Pac-12 to go back-to-back in steals and scoring. Her outsized importance to her Arizona team is evidenced by her 36.8% usage rate on offense, the fourth-highest in the entire sport.

In one game last season, McDonald dropped 44 points on a ranked Texas team. She is also in the midst of a 66-game streak of scoring in double figures, the longest active streak in the country. Last year, her hardware case had to make room for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, recognizing the top shooting guard in the country. After playing with Kelsey Plum her freshman season with Washington, McDonald has established herself as a similarly effective scorer for Arizona. If there is one area to grow, it is 3-point shooting, where she is not shy to try but has made just 28% of her attempts in her two seasons with Arizona. Seen as a top professional prospect last year, McDonald will be making her case for WNBA teams all year while playing on an Arizona team hoping to make some noise in March.



Nearly averaging a double-double from the center position, Cunane was essential to NC State’s 28-4 season. A 54.7% shooter last season, Cunane fit right in on a team filled with 3-point shooters, making 17-of-38 from beyond the arc after taking just 12 in her freshman season. With 3-point shooters continuing to space the floor and the confidence to attack any defender one-on-one, Cunane will continue to get the point totals. Like others on this list, there is room to improve, which is exactly what makes her junior season so exciting. Last year, NC State won its first conference tournament in 29 years and reached No. 4 in the AP poll. How successful they are in the 2020-2021 season will be largely up to Cunane to decide.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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