Just 15 of 36 drafted players appear on WNBA opening day rosters to start the 2023 season. With 144 roster spots available among the 12 teams, a number of college stars were waived before the season began.

Here are five of the most notable rookie free agents, and how they can find themselves in the WNBA in the future.

Abby Meyers, No. 11 pick

The Dallas Wings surprised everyone when they opted to take Meyers with the 11th pick on draft night. The guard wasn’t projected to be a first round pick in mock drafts, and while the Wings clearly saw something in Meyers, it wasn’t enough to land her a roster spot.

Meyers shot 38.8% from the 3-point line in her final collegiate season, and the Wings were in search of shooters. Another big strength is her basketball IQ – Meyers transferred to Maryland from Ivy League powerhouse Princeton.

Fit criteria: If Meyers winds up on a roster, expect it to be a team that needs a backup guard or a shooting lift.

Taylor Mikesell, No. 13 pick

The Indiana Fever kept three of their five draft picks on roster: Aliyah Boston, Grace Berger and Victaria Saxton. While Mikesell, an Ohio State product, was waived on May 17, the guard likely was an attractive prospect for the Fever because of her shooting abilities.

Mikesell made her mark in college as one of the top 3-point shooters in the country. The 5-11 guard was the best pure shooter in the draft, knocking down 41.4% of her attempts as a senior.

Fit criteria: Mikesell can play spot minutes for a team with dominant bigs that needs shooters to space the floor.

Alexis Morris, No. 22 pick

Morris wasn’t on a lot of draft boards until the NCAA Tournament, when her play helped LSU win its first national title. Her 21 points and 9 assists in the championship game over Iowa showed that Morris can perform well under pressure. But after being drafted by the Connecticut Sun, Morris was waived after one preseason game.

Morris is undersized at 5-6, but her ability to score in the midrange helps the LSU product combat the height disadvantage. She is also a good decision maker who can spearhead an offense.

Fit criteria: Any team that finds itself thin at the point guard or shooting guard spot due to injuries may target Morris. Her size is a concern for defense, but she can hold her own on offense.

Brea Beal, No. 24 pick

The Minnesota Lynx kept Diamond Miller (No. 2 pick) and Dorka Juhász (No. 16 pick), but South Carolina’s Beal was waived on May 16. Beal was a key piece for the Gamecocks on their championship team in 2022 and a four-year starter. She’s experienced competing at the highest level college basketball has to offer.

Defense is Beal’s strength, and she often found herself tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best offensive player. At 6-1 with length and strength, she could be called on to do the same in the WNBA

Fit criteria: Beal’s offense is a work in progress – she was a dominant scorer in high school but wasn’t called on to do the same in college – so the team that picks her up will likely have a plethora of scorers. But anyone who needs defense, particularly an on-ball defender, should look to Beal. (Just ask Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley.)

Monika Czinano, No. 26 pick

Czinano more than held her own for Iowa, but basketball is changing at the WNBA level. Traditional bigs, unless they have size like the 6-7 Brittney Griner, are going away. Czinano doesn’t have a versatile skill set, which is why she didn’t go until the third round to the Los Angeles Sparks.

Still, the 6-3 post possesses toughness and efficiency around the rim – she made 67.1% of her attempts during a five-year college career.

Fit criteria: Czinano won’t be a primary option in the WNBA, but she can be a backup post on the right team. If she’s picked up, it will likely be with a team that has bigs who can stretch the floor, allowing Czinano to play off them in the paint.

Other draftees who were waived:

  • LaDazhia Williams (No. 17 pick, LSU)
  • Madi Williams (No. 18 pick, Oklahoma)
  • Elena Tsineke (No. 20 pick, South Florida)
  • Kayana Traylor (No. 23 pick, Virginia Tech)
  • Destiny Harden (No. 27 pick, Miami)
  • Taylor Soule (No. 28, Virginia Tech)
  • Jade Loville (No. 33 pick, Arizona)
  • Ashten Prechtel (No. 34 pick, Stanford)
  • Brittany Davis (No. 36 pick, Alabama)

The WNBA roster crunch continues, with the Los Angeles Sparks waiving former Iowa star Monika Czinano.

The No. 26 overall pick in the 2023 draft, Czinano played nine minutes in Los Angeles’ preseason win over the Phoenix Mercury on Friday, contributing six points and two rebounds off the bench. But the Sparks cut their third-round pick early Tuesday.

With her exit from the Sparks, all three draftees who played in the 2023 national title game – Czinano and LSU’s Alexis Morris and LaDazhia Williams – have been waived by their WNBA teams.

With Czinano’s cut, 19 of the 36 picks from the 2023 draft appear on WNBA rosters as of Tuesday morning. On Monday, the Dallas Wings cut first-round pick Abby Meyers.

Last season, just 17 of the 36 picks from the 2022 WNBA Draft made opening day rosters. Nearly every team still has cuts left to make to fit under the 12-player maximum by Thursday’s roster deadline.

LSU president Willam Tate IV criticized the move and the WNBA’s business model on Twitter.

“Remained quiet when my students were released. No claim of sour grapes here…but the @wnba business model is suboptimal,” wrote LSU president Willam Tate IV. “Players are better served in college or with other transparent options to aspire. I hope this market learns to tap into the passion of WBB.”

LSU cut down the nets at the end of March Madness, but the games also gave us smaller, individual victories as players improved their WNBA draft stock throughout the NCAA Tournament.

As WNBA teams prepare to make their selections Monday night in New York City, here are four players who could move up the draft board thanks to their tournament performances.

Alexis Morris, PG, LSU

The biggest knock on Morris’ game is that she is undersized at 5-foot-6. But in March, the point guard led her team to a national championship and proved she can match up with bigger guards along the way.

“She played well throughout the tournament, and at times she carried LSU,” Atlanta Dream coach Tanisha Wright said on a pre-draft media call Thursday. Wright’s Dream have two picks in the first round Monday night, including the No. 6 selection.

“She is somebody who got significantly better throughout the season.”

Morris stepped up when LSU needed her most, finishing with 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds to help the Tigers escape Utah in the Sweet 16. She then scored 27 points against Virginia Tech in the Final Four, and finished with 21 points and nine assists as LSU topped Iowa in the championship game.

Another stat that WNBA coaches and executives will love: Morris had a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio throughout the tournament. She’s a reliable decision-maker who excels in the midrange after she beats defenders off the dribble.

Zia Cooke, G, South Carolina

Playing for a team as stacked as South Carolina was this season, it can be hard to excel, but Cooke managed the feat throughout her career and particularly during the Gamecocks’ March Madness run this year. She finished with 18 points and eight rebounds to help the Gamecocks advance past Maryland in the Elite Eight.

In a disappointing loss to Iowa in the Final Four, Cooke kept her team in the game, finishing with 24 points and eight rebounds. Iowa packed the paint and made it difficult for the South Carolina guards to attack, but Cooke was able to navigate the defense, a feat that didn’t go unnoticed by WNBA coaches and executives.

“In the last month and a half, she really showed up for them and progressed through the tournament as well,” Wright said.

Jordan Horston, G, Tennessee

Horston was already an attractive prospect to WNBA teams because of her build. At 6-2, the guard is long and athletic, making her an asset on both ends of the floor. Tennessee clearly felt her absence due to injury during last year’s NCAA Tournament, and this time around, her importance to the Vols was on full display.

She led Tennessee to a Sweet 16 with three complete performances. In the first round, Horston had 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. She followed that up with 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals against Toledo, in a game where she only logged 18 minutes. Horston was solid once more during Tennessee’s Sweet 16 loss to Virginia Tech, registering 17 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

(Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

While she’ll need to clean up her turnovers, after averaging 4.5 per game this season and committing seven in the Sweet 16, Horston’s ability to impact the game in multiple ways is a good sign for her future in a league that values versatility.

“She demonstrated that she will be a really great fit for whatever team drafts her,” said Dallas Wings president Greg Bibb.

Monika Czinano, F, Iowa

Iowa’s fifth-year post player doesn’t necessarily fit today’s mold of a WNBA player. There is less room for traditional, back-to-the-basket post players as the WNBA moves toward positionless basketball, but Czinano has the potential to make an impact because her specialized skills are elite. She doesn’t do a little bit of everything, but she excels at her strengths.

“I’m a big Monika fan,” said Indiana Fever GM Lin Dunn. “She has no fear, she’s physical, strong, and high energy. The only thing for Monika is she needs to get selected by the right team.”

Czinano was one of the most efficient players in college basketball this season, shooting 67.4 percent from the field. She maintained that efficiency against top competition, including when matched up against 6-5 Aliyah Boston and 6-7 Kamilla Cardoso from South Carolina. Czinano had 18 points in their Final Four matchup, going 6-for-8 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

LSU’s national championship win against Iowa featured plenty of excitement, and the officiating injected a bit of extra drama into the proceedings.

The game featured 37 fouls. And while each team received its share, with 19 for Iowa compared to 18 for LSU, that just meant both sides took issue with the referees in turn.

LSU coach Kim Mulkey expressed her frustration after star Angel Reese received her second foul in the second quarter. At halftime, six of the 10 starters had at least two fouls to their names.

With one minute remaining in the third quarter, Iowa star Caitlin Clark received a technical foul — also her fourth personal foul — after she flipped the ball out of bounds following a play, a decision that baffled analysts and fans alike.

WNBA players were those who questioned the officiating, including two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne, who called on the refs to “please stop inserting yourselves in this game!”

Three of Iowa’s starters finished the game with at least four fouls, including Clark, who said the refs called a “very, very tight” game. Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock fouled out of the 102-85 loss.

“Obviously foul trouble not really what you want in a national championship game, especially for our two seniors who have given so much to this program and had to finish their career on the bench,” Clark said. “It’s not something they deserved by any means.”

When asked specifically about Czinano, Clark repeated that sentiment.

“I was really bummed that someone that has made me a really good player had to spend the last five minutes on the bench,” Clark said of Czinano. “She deserved a little better than that.”

Iowa coach coach Lisa Bluder also voiced her disappointment after the game.

“I can’t comment on the officials. It’s very frustrating because I feel like I can’t talk to them,” she said. “They won’t even listen. That’s what’s frustrating is there wasn’t even a conversation that could be had.”

SEATTLE — Basketball was invented in 1891. After 132 years, it’s difficult to be surprised. There are exceptional performances, sure. But the game rarely sneaks up on you.

That’s why Caitlin Clark is so special. She’s doing things on the court that no one has ever done. Making shots that no one has any business making. Finding seams that aren’t there until she passes through them. Taking an arena in Seattle, 1,854 miles from Carver Hawkeye Arena, and making it sound like a home game.

To watch Caitlin Clark play basketball is to see it through a different lens. It’s to be surprised, every play. To see novelty in a game that’s existed for 132 years.

Like recording a 40-point triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game. That’s new. Clark achieved the milestone with 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds as Iowa topped Louisville 97-83 in the Elite Eight on Sunday night.

And Clark put her own spin on it. Not only was she the first to accomplish the feat, but she also did it to send her team to the Final Four — Iowa’s first since 1993, when another Hawkeye legend, C. Vivian Stringer, was coaching the program.

“She is spectacular,” coach Lisa Bluder said of Clark. “I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court. A 40-point triple-double against Louisville to go to the Final Four? Are you kidding? I mean, it’s mind-boggling.”

Clark’s coach and teammates are still getting used to the show she puts on. And this is new to them, too — watching Clark snuggle up to the regional trophy, celebrating together as orange, red, pink, black and blue confetti falls, seeing “Seattle Regional Champions,” and a Hawkeye logo on the big screen.

With a Final Four hat on her head, Clark ascended the ladder. She reached up and cut a single piece of the net. Then, with a smile, Clark showed the crowd. They cheered. She yelled. Countless players before her had done the same, but after treating Climate Pledge Arena to a brand-new show, it was Clark’s turn to enjoy something for the first time.

The Final Four.

It eluded her for two seasons. Last year, the Hawkeyes didn’t get close. An upset-minded Creighton squad halted the dream before they could get past the Round of 32. But now, Clark, and McKenna Warnock (17 points), Gabbie Marshall (14) and Monika Czinano, who came back for a fifth year just for this moment, and the entire Hawkeye roster got to hold a sliver of nylon on their hands. It served as tangible proof of what they had just accomplished, advancing to the biggest stage in college basketball.

“I love to play this game,” Clark said. “I’ve dreamed of this moment since I was a little girl. I’ve always wanted to take a team to the Final Four and be in these moments and have confetti fall down on me.”

It was a dream she and Lisa Bluder first discussed in the Clark family living room during a recruiting trip when Clark was in high school. She told Bluder she wanted to play in a Final Four.

“Let’s do it together,” Bluder told her.

It was also a dream that Clark wasn’t shy about sharing. First, she convinced the players in her own locker room that it was possible.

“A lot of people told me it would never happen when I came to the University of Iowa,” she said. “But (Bluder) believed in me, and that was really all that mattered. And we made our locker room believe. When you dream and work really hard, a lot of really cool things can happen.”

Once the team had bought in, Clark moved on to the public — much to Bluder’s chagrin.

“Caitlin was the one that said, ‘We’re going to the Final Four.’ And she kept saying it in the paper,” Bluder recalls. “And I’m thinking, ‘Quit doing that, man.’ I learned a long time ago not to always give your goals away to people. Because there’s a lot of people that want to tear ’em down. She wasn’t afraid of that goal. She wasn’t afraid of putting it out there.”

A dream. Now a reality.

The Caitlin Clark Show is heading to Dallas. Get your tickets now. They won’t last.

The Hawkeyes faithful will be out in numbers, cheering them on. Clark will make sure of it.

As she climbed closer to the Final Four and closer to a 40-point triple-double, Clark asked the crowd to get louder. She threw her hands in the air, motioning for the volume to rise. At one point, late in the fourth quarter, Clark held her palm to her ear to say, “I can’t hear you.” The decibels increased.

“I feel kind of powerful,” Clark said with a laugh. “I don’t think people realize how much that affects us on the court. It really is huge for us when we can play into that. But there were a lot of little kids out there screaming and cheering for us, which I think is the coolest thing.”

Caitlin Clark signs autographs for fans after Iowa's Elite Eight win. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

In Greece, former Iowa great Megan Gustafson woke up to an alarm before 4 a.m. so she could watch the Hawkeyes. Sue Bird was in the stands at Climate Pledge Arena. Her alma mater, UConn, was out, but she came back to see Iowa and Louisville square off. In the crowd, countless adoring fans waved signs, most of them with messages for No. 22.

One said, “Caitlin Clark, are you serious?”

Another: “Clark buckets from the logo counter,” with a place to write in every time Clark made one of her signature 3-point shots.

A little girl with cropped, pink hair hoisted a poster board that read: “Iowa, I got Sue Bird’s signature, now I just need Caitlin Clark’s.” Bird was a record-setting point guard who won titles with UConn and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. She played 20 years in the WNBA and is regarded as one of the best to ever do it. In the eyes of a little Hawkeyes fan in Seattle, Bird and Clark are already on the same level.

And that was before Clark’s record-setting performance. Now, that little girl and others, too — little boys and grown adults included — can say they were there when Caitlin Clark dropped 41 points and recorded the first triple-double of its kind to get her team to the Final Four. At 21 years old, No. 22 is already altering the history books.

And there’s still more to be written.

“The job’s not finished,” Clark said.

She’s ready for Dallas. Are you?

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

SEATTLE — The Iowa Hawkeyes view their season in two segments: before the Maryland loss and after.

The 96-68 defeat to the Terrapins on Feb. 21 served as a not-so-gentle reminder of what can happen when the Hawkeyes don’t play the right way.

Now, the team is happy to address it, with candor and even humor. The game was a turning point and a big reason why they sat in Seattle on Thursday addressing the media ahead of their Sweet 16 matchup with Colorado on Friday night.

“I think it was honestly embarrassing what happened to us at Maryland and we all knew it,” fifth-year senior Monika Czinano said with a slight chuckle. “When you get 30-pieced on the road, it’s not fun.”

But the loss came at just the right time. With one regular-season game left, followed by the Big Ten tournament and March Madness right around the corner, the Hawkeyes needed that reminder. They went on to beat then-No. 2 Indiana and win the conference tournament. And when the NCAA Tournament began, they were finally able to put last year’s second-round loss to Creighton behind them as they advanced to the Sweet 16 with a win over Georgia.

But the Hawkeyes want more. They want to win a national championship. And to do that, they need everyone playing at a high level. Not just Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano. Everyone.

That’s what makes this Hawkeyes team different from last year’s squad. The supporting cast of players have elevated their games, going from bodies on the floor to legitimate scoring threats.

“They have all stepped up in big ways, and I think we all understand, too, that if we want to win two games here, we’re going to need everybody,” Clark said of the regional contests. “It can’t just be a couple people. It’s got to be all five players on the floor at one time.”

During the 2021-22 season, one that was cut short in the Round of 32, Clark and Czinano scored 57 percent of their team’s 84.2 points per game. This season, that number is down to 50 percent, and Iowa leads the NCAA with 87.5 points per game.

That 7 percent makes a difference.

Take the win over Georgia on Sunday as an example. Clark and Czinano had their usual stat lines, with 22 and 20 points, respectively. But McKenna Warnock also contributed 14 points, and Gabbie Marshall came up big with 15 points, all on 3-pointers to stretch the defense and open things up inside.

Iowa guard Kate Martin hugs Caitlin Clark after the Hawkeyes' win over Georgia. (Margaret Kispert/USA TODAY Sports)

“I think obviously people are going to focus on Monika and Caitlin, as they should,” Marshall said. “I think, really, it’s harder for teams to guard us when we have bigger roles and we know that. I think especially after that Maryland game at Maryland, we knew that we had to step up and we had to knock down shots.”

In other games this season, different Hawkeyes players have stepped up. Sometimes that player has been Kate Martin, who showed in a loss to UConn in November that she is capable of putting up big numbers. Other times, it’s been freshman Hannah Stuelke.

Stuelke’s season averages of 7.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game earned her Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year honors.

The former Miss Iowa Basketball adds a new element to the Hawkeyes attack, with her ability to run the floor and create off the bounce. It’s a stark contrast to Czinano, who is a traditional post player. The dichotomy doesn’t allow defenses to get comfortable, as Iowa can change the way it runs offense depending on which big is in the game.

“Hannah having the ability to come in at the five just throws a type of offense at the defense that they’re probably not used to seeing,” Czinano said. “I’m such a traditional back-to-the-basket post. I never dribble really, if I can help it, and Hannah dribbles. She’s a dynamic player.”

Stuelke didn’t play against Georgia after turning her ankle in practice, but coach Lisa Bluder expects her to be available when the Hawkeyes play Colorado on Friday.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Iowa defeated Indiana 76-67 on Sunday to win the Big Ten tournament championship, one week after earning a share of the Big Ten regular season title. It was the first time in program history that the Hawkeyes have won both crowns in a single season.

Monika Czinano led the way for Iowa, scoring a game-high 30 points on 13-for-18 shooting and pulling down 10 rebounds to help the Hawkeyes pull away down the stretch.

Indiana hung tough throughout the game, with guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary quieting Iowa star Caitlin Clark with her defense. Clark connected on just one of her seven attempted 3-point shots, but finished with 18 points to win tournament MVP

Four Indiana starters finished the game in double figures, led by Grace Berger’s 20 points, but as a team, Indiana shot just 37.7 percent to Iowa’s 50.

With the win, Iowa officially stamped its ticket to the NCAA Tournament.