The 10 best duos in the women's NCAA tournament

Star power has defined the 2023-24 women’s college basketball season, and much of that focus has been on household names: Caitlin, JuJu, Paige, Angel.

But let’s give it up for the duos that have helped shape the past five months of competition and will make their marks on the women’s NCAA tournament.

ESPN considered many variations for this list of the top 10 duos playing in the Big Dance: guard-post tandems, backcourt brethren, post pairings — so many different ways teammates can make an impact in their own respective roles, but also when they work together.

These players have shared the floor together for varying amounts of time — Paige Bueckers and Aaliyah Edwards are seniors at UConn, while Angel Reese and Aneesah Morrow are in their first year playing together at LSU since Morrow transferred from DePaul.

How will that synergy pan out for the rest of March? The first round opens Friday. Before then, Charlie Creme, Alexa Philippou and Michael Voepel break down the best duos in the NCAA tournament field.


G Paige Bueckers and F Aaliyah Edwards, UConn Huskies

The Huskies’ onslaught of injuries has put even more pressure on their senior duo to show up each night. Bueckers and Edwards have done just that, guiding UConn to an undefeated run through the Big East. Bueckers has shined in her first season back from an ACL injury, showing remarkable efficiency (61.1 effective field goal percentage). Edwards, who broke her nose in the Big East tournament but is expected to play moving forward, is also having a career season despite having more on her shoulders than ever with a depleted frontcourt rotation.

Something to note: Both have experience with deep March runs, as they were part of UConn’s Final Four team in 2021 and national title game appearance in 2022. The Huskies are the 3-seed in Portland 3. — Philippou

Stats: Bueckers: 21.3 PPG, 3.7 APG; Edwards: 17.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG
When they play: Saturday vs. 14-seed Jackson State (1 p.m. ET, ABC)


G Caitlin Clark and F Hannah Stuelke, Iowa Hawkeyes

Perhaps it’s easy to say anyone paired with Clark would make a good duo, but that ignores just how important Stuelke is to the Hawkeyes. Clark’s assist numbers wouldn’t be what they are without the 6-foot-2 sophomore at the finishing end of so many of them. Stuelke scored 47 points against Penn State on a night when Clark had 15 assists. Iowa needed someone to replace Monika Czinano, and while Stuelke isn’t the same type of player, she filled the role of inside presence and finisher well. As good as Clark is, Iowa wouldn’t be a No. 1 seed — the top team in Albany 2 — without the play of Stuelke. — Creme

Stats: Clark 31.9 PPG, 8.9 APG; Stuelke 14.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG
When they play: Saturday vs. 16-seed Holy Cross-UT Martin winner (3 p.m. ET, ABC)



Why Albany 2 Region could be the toughest in the women’s NCAA tournament

Andraya Carter, Rebecca Lobo and Charlie Creme break down why Albany 2 Region will be so difficult.


C Audi Crooks and F Addy Brown, Iowa State Cyclones

There are many outstanding first-year players this season. But no freshman duo has had a bigger impact on a team than Crooks and Brown, who lead the Cyclones (a 7-seed in Portland 4) in scoring and rebounding. Crooks is an Iowa native, while Brown is from Kansas. They quickly jelled for an Iowa State team that needed a lot from them, leading the Cyclones to a fourth-place finish in the Big 12 and the league tournament championship game. — Voepel

Stats: Crooks: 18.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG; Brown: 13.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.9 APG
When they play: Friday vs. No. 10 Maryland (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)



Sorensen: ‘LSU has one of the toughest roads’ in the dance

SEC Now’s Steffi Sorensen shares her insight on the Tigers’ tough battle ahead, including injury recoveries and tough NCAA Tournament opponents.


F Angel Reese and G Aneesah Morrow, LSU Tigers

When the 6-1 Morrow decided to join the 6-3 Reese at LSU this offseason, the tongue-in-cheek response was, “How is any team going to get a rebound against those two?” But it was not a joke. Reese ranked third in the country in double-doubles while Morrow was sixth. They combined for 43 on the season, and LSU, the No. 3 seed in Albany 2, was second in the country behind UCLA in rebounding margin. It took a little while for Reese, Morrow and the collection of talent Kim Mulkey had at her disposal to figure out their roles, but once they did, Reese and Morrow became a dominant pair. — Creme

Stats: Reese 19.0 PPG, 13.1 RPG; Morrow 16.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG
When they play: Friday vs. 14-seed Rice (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)


G Hannah Hidalgo and F Maddy Westbeld, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

On an Irish team ravaged by injuries, Hidalgo and Westbeld have been the rocks. Hidalgo is Notre Dame’s leading scorer and top defender. Westbeld is the team’s top rebounder and most accurate 3-point shooter. Perhaps just as important, they’ve missed only one game combined for a team that is now only six players deep. While Hidalgo has been the catalyst for the Irish (a No. 2 seed in Albany 1) in her rookie season, Westbeld’s ability to take her game to another level late in the season has been the key to Notre Dame’s eight-game winning streak. No better example of their importance came in the ACC tournament championship game, when the two combined to score all but one of the Irish’s second-half points in a win over NC State. — Creme

Stats: Hidalgo 23.3 PPG, 4.6 SPG; Westbeld 14.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG
When they play: Saturday vs. 15-seed Kent State (2:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)


G Jacy Sheldon and G Celeste Taylor, Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State ranks seventh among Power 5 schools in steals at 10.6 per game, and Sheldon and Taylor are the key reason. The two fifth-year senior guards combine for 4.4 steals per game and can put a lot of pressure on opposing teams. Sheldon has spent her career at Ohio State, while Taylor previously played at Texas and Duke. But they clicked together well this season for the Buckeyes, the No. 2 seed in Portland 3. Sheldon and Taylor do a lot offensively, too, and that will be crucial for them to make a Final Four run. But if they’re setting the tone defensively, it usually means Ohio State is in control of the game. — Voepel

Stats: Sheldon: 18.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.1 SPG; Taylor: 10.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.3 SPG
When they play: Friday vs. 15-seed Maine (noon ET, ESPN)


C Kamilla Cardoso and G Te-Hina Paopao, South Carolina Gamecocks

Cardoso is one of the most powerful centers in the country, and she has stepped in as South Carolina’s primary inside threat after Aliyah Boston left for the WNBA. Paopao was a standout guard for Oregon for three seasons before transferring to South Carolina to become the Gamecocks’ best 3-point shooter. The Gamecocks’ offense revolves around this inside-outside duo, who are in their first season playing together but have very quickly developed chemistry for the 32-0 Gamecocks, who are the No. 1 overall seed in the Albany 1 Regional. — Voepel

Stats: Cardoso: 14.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG; Paopao: 11.1 PPG, 3.7 APG
When they play: Friday vs. 16-seed Presbyterian-Sacred Heart winner (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)



Dawn Staley credits 1-seed to the ‘standard’ of South Carolina’s program

Dawn Staley explains what it means to be the No. 1 overall seed and how South Carolina will navigate without Kamilla Cardoso in its first game.


F Cameron Brink and F Kiki Iriafen, Stanford Cardinal

Stanford, the No. 2 seed in the Portland 4 Regional, faced a lot of questions about what it would look like this year after three players entered the transfer portal and Haley Jones left for the WNBA. Enter Iriafen. The 6-3 forward has taken a huge jump as a sophomore, leading the Cardinal in scoring and helping them dominate the glass. Iriafen has been a perfect complementary player for Brink, a 6-4 forward who was the 2024 Pac-12 Player of the Year and has helped solidify her status as the likely No. 2 pick in the WNBA draft next month. — Philippou

Stats: Brink: 17.8 PPG, 12.0 RPG; Iriafen: 18.6 PPG, 11.0 PRG
When they play: Friday vs. 15-seed Norfolk State (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)


G Charisma Osborne and G Kiki Rice, UCLA Bruins

Lauren Betts, UCLA’s 6-foot-7 center, might have been the missing piece for the Bruins to earn their highest seed (No. 2 in Albany 2) in program history, but this team’s identity and foundation is in the backcourt. Osborne elected to stay for a fifth season, and it has paid dividends for both her and the program. An elite defender, Osborne is also the player her teammates look to in crunch time. Rice is fifth in the Pac-12 in assists and the second-best rebounding guard in the conference. That versatility allows Cori Close to put any other combination of players around them without sacrificing production. — Creme

Stats: Osborne 14.4 PPG, 3.8 APG; Rice 12.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG
When they play: Saturday vs. 15-seed California Baptist (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)


G Georgia Amoore and C Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech Hokies

The Amoore-Kitley tandem propelled the Hokies to a Final Four a year ago. And as the pieces around them changed in the offseason, the two emerged perhaps even better, as both are having career seasons to lead Virginia Tech to the ACC regular-season title. The major asterisk, though, is whether Kitley — a three-time ACC Player of the Year — will be available for the NCAA tournament after sustaining a knee injury in the Hokies’ regular-season finale on March 3. Virginia Tech, the No. 4 seed in the Portland 3 Regional, hasn’t released a definitive statement, and coach Kenny Brooks hasn’t ruled her out for the remainder of the season. — Philippou

Stats: Kitley: 22.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG; Amoore: 19.2 PPG, 6.9 APG
When they play: Friday vs. 13-seed Marshall (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top