No one can beat you in more ways
Top scorer carries heaviest burden
We could expand the debate to include Notre Dame's Kayla McBride, Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike and Maryland's Alyssa Thomas and still come up with compelling cases for every answer. All are indispensable to contenders to reach the Final Four in Nashville.
It's a race that requires a tiebreaker. For me, it is whom would you least want to play against?
The one who can beat you in the most ways.
As Louisville coach Jeff Walz noted after the first game his team played against Connecticut this season, Breanna Stewart is in some ways even more difficult to defend than Brittney Griner or Maya Moore. She shoots 36 percent from the 3-point line (and up to several steps beyond it, if we're talking about the space opponents are obligated to defend). But she also averages 19.5 points per game on 54 percent accuracy on 2-point field goals and can get those shots with her back to the basket in the post or off the dribble. In that respect, she is more like Elena Delle Donne than like Griner or Moore, only with a supporting cast of All-Americans.
Some may see that cast as a mitigating factor, especially given the burden that Odyssey Sims shoulders at Baylor. But in what may be her most notable improvement from freshman to sophomore, Stewart makes them better as much as they make her.
With the postseason still to play, she has already nearly tripled her assists from a season ago and reversed her assist-to-turnover ratio. And Connecticut's defense is what it is at least partly because it has a player like Stewart who, in addition to rebounding, blocks nearly three shots a game while committing fewer than two fouls per game.
Whether against Baylor, Duke, Maryland or Louisville, all wins in which she led the Huskies in scoring and contributed in myriad other ways, Stewart tilts the balance of power.
No player has been asked to do more for her team. No player has had more to do with her team's success. Senior Odyssey Sims is the best player in the country.
With Baylor losing four starters and the core of the most successful period in program history, Sims has carried all of the Lady Bears' expectations on her aggressive, confident shoulders. The pressure never let up. Every opponent's defensive game plan has focused on stopping her, yet Sims still has managed to lead the country in scoring (29.6 points per game) and Baylor to a share of its fourth consecutive Big 12 regular-season title. Perhaps only Notre Dame and South Carolina exceeded expectations more than the Lady Bears.
Other than freshman Nina Davis, Sims had little consistent help in getting Baylor here. She hits 45 percent of her field goals and 42 percent of her 3-point attempts. Sims is averaging 4.8 assists -- less than one assist fewer than last season, when she was surrounded by Brittney Griner and a trio of frontcourt standouts who were a big part of Baylor's 2012 national championship.
If there's a knock on Sims, it's that she's had 32 percent of Baylor's field goal attempts. Still, that's only 2 percentage points more than Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike, the other individual player in the country most closely identified with her team. The nation's second-leading scorer, FIU's Jerica Coley, has taken 40 percent of her team's shots, but it hasn't translated into the same team success; the Panthers are 12-16.
Her past two games notwithstanding (she was held to a season-low 11 points Tuesday), Sims has simply been one of the nation's most consistent players, surpassing even what was asked of her. She plays with reckless abandon and an unabashed confidence to deliver. But beyond the eye-popping statistics, Sims helped produce win after win -- without the assistance of another All-American beside her.