Players from one-bid leagues ready for NCAA spotlight
AP Sports Writer
The NCAA Tournament gives top players from one-bid leagues the opportunity to share the spotlight with the major-conference performers who have garnered more attention all season.
Chattanooga coach Jim Foster would prefer labels such as “Power Five” and “mid-major” weren’t even used.
“Just the terms are condescending to me, in terms of the arrogance of naming yourself the Power Five and the assumption that there’s something wrong with being a mid-major, whatever that means,” said Foster, who previously coached at St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt and Ohio State. “At the very least, players from that environment come in with a huge chip on their shoulder. That’s a good thing, in my opinion.
“We shouldn’t be so quick to label. We do that in a lot of areas, not just athletics. I’m sure those players relish this opportunity.”
Upsets in the women’s tournament aren’t quite as plentiful in the men’s game, as the top four seeds in each region benefit from playing the first two rounds at home . But these players from one-bid programs have the ability to make an impact.
JILL BARTA (forward, Gonzaga)
First-round opponent: Saturday vs. Oklahoma at Seattle
Notable: Barta has earned first-team all-West Coast Conference honors each of her two seasons and averages 16.9 points and 6 rebounds this year. The 6-foot-3 sophomore scored 37 points in a WCC championship game victory over Saint Mary’s. She scored 26 points in an early-season victory over Stanford .
MIKAELA BOYD (guard, Toledo)
First-round opponent: Friday vs. Creighton at Corvallis, Oregon
Notable: Boyd had 27 points and 14 rebounds in the Mid-American Conference championship game to lead Toledo to its first NCAA bid since 2001. The 5-7 sophomore averages 12.2 points, 8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals.
EMILY CLEMENS (guard, Western Illinois)
First-round opponent: Friday vs. Florida State at Tallahassee, Florida
Notable: Clemens tops the Summit League in scoring (19.2), assists (7.3), steals (2.6) and assist/turnover ratio (2.5). The 5-4 junior ranks sixth among Division I players in assists per game. Clemens was the Summit League’s player of the year and the MVP of the league’s postseason tournament. She has led Western Illinois to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1995 .
CLAIRE DeBOER (forward, Bucknell)
First-round opponent: Friday vs. Maryland at College Park, Maryland
Notable: DeBoer was a unanimous selection as Patriot League player of the year and also was MVP of the league tournament. The 6-1 senior had 30 points and 10 rebounds in the Patriot League championship as Bucknell beat Navy in overtime. She averages 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
PEYTON FERRIS (guard, Montana State)
First-round opponent: Saturday vs. Washington in Seattle
Notable: Ferris was the Big Sky’s MVP during the regular season and also in the league tournament. She led Montana State to its first Big Sky Tournament title since 1993 by scoring 23 points in the championship game . The 5-9 senior averages 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds.
JASMINE JOYNER (forward, Chattanooga)
First-round opponent: Saturday vs. Louisville at Louisville, Kentucky
Notable: Joyner has 436 career blocked shots to rank eighth in NCAA Division I history. The 6-foot-2 senior has 3.9 blocks per game this year to rank second nationally. She also has 13.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. She was named the Southern Conference Tournament MVP.
MEHRYN KRAKER (forward, Green Bay)
First-round opponent: Friday vs. Purdue at South Bend, Indiana
Notable: Kraker averages 17.4 points and was the Horizon League’s player of the year. The 6-foot graduate student is the first Green Bay player ever to make over 200 career 3-pointers. Another Green Bay player to watch is Horizon League Tournament MVP Jessica Lindstrom, who had 20 points and 16 rebounds earlier this season in a 71-67 loss to potential second-round opponent Notre Dame.
KENDALL NOBLE (guard, Western Kentucky)
First-round opponent: Friday vs. Ohio State at Lexington, Kentucky
Notable: Noble has earned first-team all-Conference USA honors each of the last two seasons. The versatile fifth-year senior averages 16.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.5 steals. Noble, who is 5-11, was named the Conference USA Tournament MVP.
MICHELLE NWOKEDI (forward, Penn)
First-round opponent: Saturday vs. Texas A&M at Los Angeles
Notable: Nwokedi was the Ivy League’s player of the year and the most outstanding player of the league tournament . The 6-3 junior averages 15.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. She has seven double-doubles in her last eight games. Nwokedi had 24 points and 11 rebounds in a loss to Duke this season.
KYLEE SMITH (guard, Belmont)
First-round opponent: Friday vs. Kentucky at Lexington, Kentucky
Notable: Smith is averaging 15.7 points for Belmont, which has won 21 straight games. Connecticut is the only Division I program with a longer active winning streak. Smith, a 5-11 Vanderbilt transfer, scored 30 points in an Ohio Valley Conference championship game victory over Eastern Kentucky.
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