March Madness if officially underway and it’s time for star players to shine on the biggest stage. A lot of talent is competing for this year’s women’s basketball trophy, but some players have been proving themselves all season and are hungry to lead their team to the ultimate success.A lot of players could’ve qualified for this list, but the ones chosen have been huge difference makers on their rosters. Here are the top two most impactful players in each region:Greenville 1Aliyah Boston (F/C, South Carolina)Last season’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the year is just as talented as ever, even if her stats are not as eye-popping on paper. She lifted her team to the national title last year as the leader in scoring, rebounds, blocks and steals. This year she averages a more quiet, by her standards, 13.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and two blocks per game, but that’s because her team is sharing more of the responsibility, and also because opponents know they must double or triple-team her.Boston swept the SEC Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards for the second season in a row. She was also named an AP All-American for the third consecutive year. She is still the same player that can be expected to help the Gamecocks close out a tough game. South Carolina enters the NCAA Tournament undefeated, but one of their biggest scares this season was against Stanford in November. The Cardinal led for most of the game, but Boston hit the game-tying shot that forced overtime. She led her team to a 76-71 victory over Stanford with a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Diamond Miller (G, Maryland)Things were looking uncertain for Maryland during the offseason after the Terps’ top two scorers, Angel Reese and Ashley Owusu, left the program. Meanwhile, a knee injury nagged Miller through the 2021-22 season and she underwent surgery for it last April. Miller ultimately decided to stay and has been Maryland’s key to success.The unanimous All-Big Ten first-team selection is the Terps’ most reliable scorer with 19.7 points per game, which ranks top 25 in the nation. However she stepped up even more against ranked opponents, averaging 24.3 points and 6.9 rebounds in eight games against top 25 teams this season. Miller proved she can help her team make a deep tournament run when she helped Maryland upset then-No. 7 Notre Dame on the road in December. Miller famously won the game with a one-legged jumper at the buzzer, but she contributed the entire night with a double-double of 31 points and 12 rebounds, along with five assists.Greenville 2Maddy Siegrist (F, Villanova)The Big East Player of the Year has been the main reason the Wildcats are trending up, making back-to-back Big East championship games for the first time since 1986-87. They ultimately lost to UConn for the third time this season, but the Wildcats kept those three final scores to single-digits. With Siegrist’s help, Villanova has been competitive and enters the NCAA Tournament as the No. 10 team in the AP Top 25 poll — the highest ranking in program history.
Siegrist is the nation’s leading scorer, registering 28.9 points per game while shooting 51.8% from the field. The senior became Villanova’s all-time leading scorer earlier this season, as well as the all-time leading scorer in Big East history — men and women — with 1,693 career points points in regular season conference games. Her ability to score inside and outside has helped her register 20-plus points in 34 consecutive games, while almost averaging a double-double this season with 9.3 rebounds per game.Angel Reese (F, LSU)Reese left Maryland as the top player in the transfer portal last year. The Tigers lucked out when she chose to join their roster, as she led LSU to one of the best seasons in program history. Reese is a confident player and has made a case for herself as one of the strongest national Player of the Year candidates because her stats reflect how dynamic she is. Reese averages 23.4 points while shooting 54% from the field. She also registers 15.5 rebounds per game.The team is deep with five players averaging more than nine points, but Reese has been by far the most impactful. She recorded a double-double this season in all but two games: South Carolina and Georgia. The game against the Gamecocks — one of the top-five defensive teams in the nation — saw her lowest shooting percentage of the season as she went 5-of-15 from the field. However, Reese still managed to register 16 points against the No. 1 team in the country.
Seattle 3Azzi Fudd (G, UConn)Fudd has only appeared in 12 games this season, but she should not be overlooked. UConn fans’ hearts broke after Paige Bueckers tore her ACL during the preseason — continuing the injury struggles the Huskies dealt with last season. However, Geno Auriemma’s team is filled with talent and Fudd showed she is not afraid to step into a bigger role. Before injuring her knee against Notre Dame in December, she was leading UConn with 20.6 points per game on 53.3% shooting from the field and 42.6% from 3-point range. The sophomore appeared in two games in January but missed all of February. She made her return this month, which — even if she does still look a bit rusty — will give the Huskies a good chance at making a deep run in the tournament. Ashley Joens (G/F, Iowa State)The two-time Cheryl Miller Award recipient decided to come back for a fifth season with the Cyclones, a decision that has helped the team tremendously. The Cyclones won their first Big 12 Tournament title in 22 years by upsetting Texas in the title game behind Joens’ 15th double-double of the season (28 points and 10 rebounds). Unsurprisingly, Joens was named the Big 12 Player of the Year earlier this month and earned the Most Outstanding Player honor in the tournament. She is almost averaging a double-double of 21.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Joens was the key to Iowa State pulling off an 81-78 win over Baylor in a double-overtime thriller in February. She started that game scoreless in the first quarter as she missed all five of her attempts from the field. However, she showed her mental strength by not giving up and eventually ended the night as the top scorer with 27 points, as well as 11 rebounds. Seattle 4Caitlin Clark (G, Iowa)Iowa has the top offense in the nation at 87.5 points per game. While there are a few contributors in the roster, Clark is the main spark with 27 points per game — second best in the nation behind Siegrist. She also averages 7.5 rebounds per game and leads the nation in assists with at total of 267. Along with Boston, Clark was an unanimous All-American first-team selection. This was her second consecutive year getting that honor. Clark helped Iowa earn its second consecutive Big Ten Conference Tournament title with a championship game performance of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 17 assists — the 10th triple-double of her career. That was only the third triple-double in tournament history, as well as the first one in the championship game. She is second in NCAA women’s history in triple-doubles, only behind former Oregon legend Sabrina Ionescu’s 26. Clark — the only player in the nation with more than 840 points, 230 rebounds, 250 assists and 45 steals this season — is currently riding an 84-game streak of scoring in double figures, which is an NCAA Division I best.
Cameron Brink (F, Stanford)Tara VanDerveer is the all-time winningest coach in women’s college basketball, and she’s been able to succeed because she selects and develops top players — one of them being Brink. The three-time Pac-12 regular season champion was named this year’s conference Defensive Player of the Year, just a year after being a finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. Brink is second in the nation in blocks with a total of 111 this season, and she’s also Stanford’s all-time leader in career blocks as well as blocks in a regular season. However, Brink has proven that she is reliable on both ends of the court as she leads the Cardinal with 14.9 points per game on 49% shooting from the field. She also contributes with 9.5 rebounds per game. The Cardinal won the 2021 NCAA championship and were looking to repeat last year until they were stunned by UConn in the Final Four. Stanford is hungry to reclaim the crown, and Brink — along with Haley Jones and the rest of the roster — will have to fight in order to take it from South Carolina.