April 25th, 2024

Five Canadians to watch in NCAA women’s basketball tournament

By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on March 19, 2024.

There are a few Canadian women with sights set on leaving their imprint at March Madness. The NCAA women's basketball tournament begins Wednesday with two First Four games, followed by 32 first-round games on Friday and Saturday. UConn's Aaliyah Edwards (3) looks to pass the ball against North Carolina State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Karl B. DeBlaker

There are a few Canadian women with sights set on leaving their imprint at March Madness.

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament begins Wednesday with two First Four games, followed by 32 first-round games on Friday and Saturday. The Final Four will be in Cleveland, Ohio on April 5, with the title game being on April 7.

The Canadian Press takes a look at five Canadian players to watch in the women’s NCAA tournament.

Aaliyah Edwards, University of Connecticut

Edwards came off a stellar junior season in 2022-23 – earning AP third team all-American honours – and followed it up with an even better senior year in 2023-24. The six-foot-three forward from Kingston, Ont., averaged career highs of 17.8 points and 9.3 rebounds for the Huskies, leading UConn to a 29-5 record and the 10th spot in the AP Top 25 rankings. The projected first-round pick in the upcoming WNBA draft and junior star guard Paige Bueckers have paired up to combine for 39.1 of UConn’s 80.8 points per game. Edwards, however, missed the last two games of the Big East tournament, which UConn won, due to a broken nose against Providence in the quarterfinals on March 9. But she is expected back for the NCAA tournament as the third seed in the Portland 3 Region plays 14th-seeded Jackson State on Saturday.

Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga

The six-foot-one senior forward from Calgary has enjoyed a career season in 2023-24, boasting career highs of 19.8 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Bulldogs. She led Gonzaga to a 30-3 record, with the 16th spot in the AP Top 25 rankings and is a top-five finalist for the Katrina McClain Award, presented to the NCAA women’s basketball power forward of the year, alongside Edwards. Ejim was also named the West Coast Conference player of the year. The Bulldogs hold the fourth seed in the Portland 4 Region and will face 13th seed UC Irvine on Saturday.

Merissah Russell, Louisville

The six-foot senior guard out of Ottawa plays a bench role for the Cardinals, averaging career-bests of 4.9 points and 2.5 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game. Russell and the Cardinals made it all the way to the Elite Eight at last year’s tournament, falling to superstar Caitlin Clark and Iowa. Louisville – which finished with a 24-9 record and sat 23rd in the most recent AP Top 25 rankings – holds the sixth seed in the Albany 2 Region and will face 11th-seeded Middle Tennessee on Friday.

Kennedy Dickie, Portland

The fifth-year senior forward out of Kelowna, B.C., averaged a solid 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Pilots, who enter the tournament as the WCC champions. Dickie scored 16 points in helping Portland upset Gonzaga 67-66 in the tournament final last Tuesday. The Pilots have gone 21-12 and currently are the 13th seed in the Albany 2 Region. They will face fourth-seeded Kansas State on Friday.

Emma Koabel, Duke

Koabel played a small role off the bench in her sophomore season, appearing in 31 games and only starting one after being in just four games as a freshman in 2022-23. The Port Colborne, Ont., native averaged 3.2 points in 12.3 minutes per game. Duke is the seventh seed in the Portland 3 Region and faces 10th-seeded Richmond on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2024.

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