by: Justin Lester and wnba.com
The college basketball season is underway, and this year’s elite teams are full of talented seniors. Here are some of the top seniors that WNBA teams will be keeping an eye on this season.
Lindsay Allen (G – Notre Dame)
While her scoring numbers don’t jump off the page, Allen has been running the show for Notre Dame since she arrived in South Bend. Heading into her final season, the senior point guard had started 112 consecutive games, a school record. Allen also recorded more assists in her first three years than any player in Notre Dame history (559). The Fighting Irish are the No. 1 team in the nation, and Allen aims to deliver their first championship since 2001.
Nia Coffey (F – Northwestern)
Coffey is coming off an uncharacteristic off night in Northwestern’s loss to Michigan on Wednesday as the senior forward finished with 16 points on 6-of-20 (30%) shooting to go with 7 rebounds and 7 turnovers. The loss hurts the buzz the team was making in cracking the Top 25 polls, but also emphasizes Coffey’s importance to this team on a nightly basis. She leads her team in both scoring (19.4) and rebounding (11.1) and ranks fourth and second, respectively, in the Big Ten.
Alaina Coates (C – South Carolina)
A double-double machine, Coates averaged 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game last year as South Carolina won the SEC regular-season and tournament titles. She’s a force on the defensive end – the 6-4 center ranked second among the school’s all-time leaders in blocks after her junior year (171). Coates could take on more of the scoring load this season after the graduation of now-Indiana Fever guard Tiffany Mitchell.
Coates finished one point shy (9 points, 12 rebounds) of her fifth straight double-double as South Carolina defeated Mississippi State in a top five showdown on Monday night. The senior center is averaging 14.4 points and 10.9 rebounds for the 17-1 Gamecocks that have their eyes set on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Nina Davis (F – Baylor)
At 5-11, Davis is a post player that may need to transition to the wing at the next level. Regardless, she’s been one of the nation’s top scorers throughout her career, highlighted by her 21.1 points per game as a sophomore in 2014-15. Davis was named to the All-Big 12 First Team in each of her first three seasons. Alongside fellow senior standout Alexis Jones, Davis will hope to lead Baylor back to the Final Four for the first time since its 2012 title-winning season.
Davis picked up Big 12 Player of the Week honors on Monday after leading the No. 2 ranked Baylor Bears to a pair of wins last week. However, she got off to a slow start this week with just 4 points on 1-of-5 and 9 rebounds in Wednesday’s win over Kansas State. Luckily, the Lady Bears didn’t need much from their senior forward as they rolled past the No. 25 Wildcats on the road.
Erica McCall (F – Stanford)
McCall had a breakout season in 2015-16, earning All-Pac-12 honors after averaging 14.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest while shooting better than 50 percent from the field. The 6-3 forward also displayed an outside touch by draining 11 of her 28 three-point attempts. When Stanford upset No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen, she dropped a career-high 27 points.
In Stanford’s latest win over Arizona State, senior forward Erica McCall had 18 points, 9 rebounds and one emphatic block. Those numbers are right on par with what she has done all season long for the 10th ranked Cardinal as she looks to lead Stanford back to the Final Four. From there it will be about taking the next step in her basketball career and entering the WNBA Draft, where she hopes to follow in the footsteps of her sister, Phoenix’s DeWanna Bonner.
Alexis Peterson (G – Syracuse)
Another player that thrived in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Peterson led Syracuse to its first-ever Final Four, where the Orange ultimately fell to star-studded UConn in the national title game. She scored 26 points against South Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen and 29 against Tennessee in the Elite Eight, earning regional Most Outstanding Player honors. Peterson looks to build on a junior year in which she tallied a school-record 593 points (16 per game).
The senior guard had 24 points and 7 assists as Syracuse upset No. 14 ranked Miami on Sunday. In fact, Peterson and her backcourt mate (and fellow senior) Brittney Sykes combined to score 53 points to outscore the Hurricanes by themselves in the Orange’s 81-48 victory. Peterson ranks third in the nation in scoring (24.3 points per game) and ninth in assists (7.0 per game). She has the ability to score on her own, set up her teammates, stretch the floor with 3-point range (2.7 3s per game on 37.3% shooting) and defend (her 3.1 steals rank 17th in the nation), which make her one of this year’s top guard prospects.
Kelsey Plum (G – Washington)
Plum has been Washington’s go-to scorer since the day she stepped on campus. An All-American in high school, she lived up to the hype by setting a new school record for career points and leading the Huskies to the Final Four as a junior. Named to the preseason AP All-American team, Plum looks to build on a 2015-16 campaign in which the lefty posted 25.9 points per game (fourth in the nation).
We’ll let NBA MVP candidate James Harden provide this week’s update on the scoring machine from Washington who just joined the 3,000 point club: “Crafty, left-handed, can shoot the three, make plays for her teammates… you don’t see that a lot, especially in women’s basketball,” Harden told WNBA.com. “I had to give her a shoutout and show her that I’m watching and I appreciate the left-hand craftiness.”
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (G – Maryland)
Walker-Kimbrough led the nation in three-point percentage last year, shooting 54.5 percent from deep while scoring 19.5 points per contest. She and senior center Brionna Jones will be motivated to get Maryland back to the Final Four after losing to Plum’s Huskies in the second round last year. With Walker-Kimbrough as their catalyst, the sixth-ranked Terrapins are once again among the national title favorites.
Walker-Kimbrough continues to do a bit of everything for the No. 3 ranked Terrapins. The senior guard stuffs the stat sheet with 17.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.6 3-pointers on 41.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Maryland coach Brenda Frese has praised Walker-Kimbrough’s relentless work to improve her game day in and day out and that drive is evident in Walker-Kimbrough’s own words.
Brionna Jones (C – Maryland)
“That Brionna Jones, she’s a monster.” That high praise comes from Rutgers head coach and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer after Jones put together another double-double (11 points and 13 rebounds) in Maryland’s 80-71 win over the Scarlett Knights on Sunday. Rutgers actually held Jones far below her season scoring average (19.4 overall, 22.6 in the conference play), but she was efficient (5-8 FG) with her shot, dominant on the glass and an intimidating presence in the paint (2 blocks).
Sydney Wiese (G – Oregon State)
Whichever WNBA team drafts Sydney Wiese this April, their social media manager better get used to posting flame emojis to track the sharpshooter’s 3-pointers on a nightly basis. The senior guard is the Pac-12’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made and is shooting 48.3 percent from beyond the arc this season, which ranks third in the nation. Plus, it’s not like she’s just sitting in the corner waiting for catch and shoot opportunities. No, she can cross you up and drain the three off the bounce as well.