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NCAA Tournament: Top WNBA prospects to watch in March

Stanford guard Haley Jones is projected to be a top WNBA draft pick. (Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports)

The NCAA Tournament not only provides basketball fans with chills and thrills. March Madness also provides a sneak peek at the stars soon to join the WNBA ranks.

Just Women’s Sports analyst Rachel Galligan projected every first-round pick for the 2023 WNBA Draft in April. Based on her mock draft, here are the four potential lottery picks to watch as the NCAA Tournament gets underway.

Aliyah Boston, F, South Carolina

The consensus No. 1 pick leads the No. 1 overall seed into the tournament with her sights set on a repeat title. Boston and the Gamecocks won the national championship against UConn last year, and the undefeated Gamecocks look even stronger this time around.

While Boston’s stats have not been as strong this season, her 13.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game are nonetheless impressive — especially when considering the heavy defensive pressure the 6-foot-5 post receives from opponents.

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Diamond Miller, G, Maryland

The second-seeded Terrapins lost four of their starters in the offseason, two to the transfer portal and two to graduation. But you wouldn’t know it to look at them, in large part thanks to the skill and composure of Miller, their lone holdover in the starting lineup.

The 6-3 guard is averaging 19.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game for Maryland, the best numbers of her career. After an injury-plagued junior season, she has looked stronger than ever in her senior season.

Rickea Jackson, F, Tennessee

The high-profile transfer had a rocky start to her Tennessee tenure, as she was benched for two games in early December due to a coach’s decision.

Since her return, though, Jackson has flourished for the fourth-seeded Volunteers. The 6-2 forward leads the team with 19.6 points per game, and she is peaking at the right time, with a 26-point double-double to lead Tennessee over LSU in the SEC tournament semifinals.

Haley Jones, G, Stanford

Jones’ value comes in her versatility. The 6-1 guard can score, she can create plays, and she can defend with the best of them. For Stanford this season, she is averaging 13.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.

The No. 1 seed in the second Seattle region, Cardinal have lost two of their last three games — to Utah in their regular-season finale and to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals. But with Jones’ steady presence, they still have what it takes to reach the Final Four for a third consecutive season.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

Selena Harris ‘Dismissed’ from UCLA Gymnastics, Declares for Transfer Portal

ncaa gymnast selena harris at the beam for ucla
All-American gymnast Selena Harris has been officially dismissed by UCLA gymnastics. (Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Star gymnast Selena Harris has been dismissed from the UCLA gymnastics team and has entered the transfer portal, the school confirmed Wednesday.

Harris, the 2024 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year and a 12-time All-American, has two years of eligibility remaining. During her time at UCLA, she was one of the top all-around gymnasts on the team. 

UCLA did not provide details about her dismissal. 

Harris has also not spoken about it, but did repost a Tweet on Wednesday confirming her entrance into the transfer portal. She has also removed any mention of UCLA gymnastics from all her social media bios.

When reached for comment by the Daily Bruin, she shared a message thanking UCLA fans for their support.

"Just wanna thank bruin nation fans for being the best supporters!" Harris wrote via Instagram.

A former No. 1 recruit, Harris was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2023 and earned four perfect scores during the 2024 season, while also winning the Pac-12 all-around title at the conference championships in March. She finished the regular season tied for first in the country on vault. 

She competed as an individual at the NCAA championships, finishing tied for third place on balance beam after UCLA failed to advance.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA Debut Draws 2.1 Million Viewers, Highest Rating in 23 Years

caitlin clark at the indiana fever wnba opener
Clark is no stranger to setting records, both on and off the court. (Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA debut drew 2.1 million viewers across all platforms on Tuesday night, making it the most-watched WNBA game in 23 years. 

The Fever-Sun matchup was the most-watched WNBA game ever broadcast on ESPN. The network's previous record was set in 2004, when Diana Taurasi’s Phoenix Mercury debut drew 1.43 million viewers.

The game between Indiana and Connecticut was also the most-watched WNBA game since an NBC broadcast of the Los Angeles Sparks and Houston Comets brought in 2.45 million viewers on Memorial Day in 2001. 

Clark had a team-leading 20 points on the night, but also a WNBA-record 10 turnovers. She finished 5-for-15 from the field.

"She's a rookie," Fever coach Christie Sides said after the game. "This is the best league in the world. We've got to teach her. We've got to teach her what these games are going to look like for her every single night. And we've got to eliminate some of that pressure for her, and that's on me."

The former Iowa star is used to the pressure, and has routinely broken viewership records throughout her career. There was hope that her presence would grow the WNBA fanbase after Iowa and South Carolina's 2024 NCAA championship clash brought in a record 18.7 million viewers. 

In April, Clark — alongside a star-studded rookie class — headlined the most-watched WNBA draft in history with 2.45 million viewers.

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