Griner, Williams get unanimous nod
Debating player, coach and freshman of the year, plus All-Americans
BEST OF THE BEST
|Graham Hays' picks||Mechelle Voepel's picks|
|POY: Brittney Griner, Baylor
She has reached the point at which she's so good it's getting all too easy to take her for granted. Three seasons into her college career, averages of 23 points and five blocks a game seem somehow par for the course, rather than representative of the mesmerizing talent she is in person. Griner was the most dominant defensive player in college basketball from the moment she arrived in Waco, but in constantly improving both her offensive game and her free throw shooting, she has equaled that reputation on the offensive end.
|POY: Brittney Griner, Baylor
You could make a very good argument for three women as the player of the year. Elena Delle Donne deserves recognition for her well-rounded game and her ability to elevate her entire team. So does Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike for her consistent excellence inside and her stalwart leadership for a squad that lost two key starters. But Griner has been an unsolvable puzzle for foes. Plus, she has expanded her game in some subtle ways not always noticed -- such as footwork and finesse, when needed -- for unbeaten Baylor.
|COY: Jim Crowley, St. Bonaventure
Picked in the preseason to finish sixth in the Atlantic 10, St. Bonaventure instead won the regular-season title without losing a conference game, beating its top rivals, Dayton and Temple, on the road along the way. That came on the heels of a nonconference schedule in which Crowley's team won road games at St. John's and West Virginia, teams that eventually ended up in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. Recruiting largely from a pool of players overlooked by the programs he's now beating, Crowley did more to get from Point A to Point B than any coach in the nation.
|COY: Tina Martin, Delaware
Do you go with Baylor's Kim Mulkey, whose team hasn't lost? Notre Dame's Muffett McGraw, whose team is 2-1 against UConn and won its first outright Big East regular-season title? Kentucky's Matt Mitchell? Duke's Joanne McCallie? Stanford's Tara VanDerveer? St. Bonaventure's Jim Crowley? Penn State's Coquese Washington? You could keep listing folks who deserve recognition, especially for getting through the grind of winning their regular-season league title. But it's Martin, who has maximized the skills of star Elena Delle Donne while surrounding her with the right complementary players.
|FOY: Elizabeth Williams, Duke
Connecticut's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis made this a photo finish with a command performance in the Big East tournament, but Williams gets the nod. Only Chelsea Gray played more minutes for the Blue Devils than their freshman post, and Williams didn't wilt with that responsibility. An instant game-changer on the defensive end, where she ranked second on the team in steals in addition to blocking nearly four shots a game, she matured into a reliable offensive asset. Williams averaged 13 points on 46.7 percent shooting out of conference, but improved to 15.4 points per game on 50.5 percent shooting in ACC play.
|FOY: Elizabeth Williams, Duke
It came down to a two-woman race between blue-chippers with the highest expectations. The nod goes to Duke center Elizabeth Williams, who was so key for a Blue Devils team that had big losses to graduation and injuries/suspension. Williams averaged 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds with 109 blocked shots. One thing to work on? Her 59.3 shooting percentage from the line. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, after an explosive start to the season for UConn, hit some bumps in the road but still averaged 14.8 ppg and 5.2 rpg. Kudos also to Kentucky's Bria Goss, Washington's Jazmine Davis and Minnesota's Rachel Banham, among others.
Our picks for the top five candidates for the All-America first team.
|Graham Hays' picks||Mechelle Voepel's picks|
|Brittney Griner, C, junior, Baylor: Griner is blessed with physical gifts unlike any post player we've ever seen, but few things say as much about what kind of player she wants to be as her free throw shooting, one part of her game in which she's no more or less naturally gifted than a 5-foot-3 walk-on guard. As a freshman, Griner shot 68 percent from the free throw line. As a sophomore, she shot 78 percent from the line. As the NCAA tournament approaches in her junior season, she's shooting 81 percent from the line. That doesn't happen without an All-American work ethic.||Brittney Griner, C, junior, Baylor: The Lady Bears ran the table in the regular season, and Griner was the biggest reason why. Her numbers tell the story: 23.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 157 blocked shots. Guarding her is a major chore, but so is trying to execute an offense against her. Baylor's opponents are shooting an average of 30.7 percent from the field. Shooters get gun-shy or greatly rush shots because Griner is so intimidating defensively that foes start seeing her even when she isn't there (of course, she usually is). The Olympic finalist also benefited from time with the U.S. national team last summer.|
|Nneka Ogwumike, F, senior, Stanford: Not that Stanford's senior star needs them, but Ogwumike gets bonus points for arguably the performance of the season in putting up 42 points and 17 rebounds in a victory against Tennessee in December. That outburst aside, and she has shown she's more than capable of doing the same thing at the Final Four, Ogwumike's steadiness is one of her most admirable basketball traits. She's always going to get her points, she's always going to get her rebounds and she's never going to make much of a fuss about doing either.||Nneka Ogwumike, F, senior, Stanford: Coach Tara VanDerveer predicted that as good as Ogwumike was last season, this season she would be markedly better. That has proved true as Stanford has pummeled its way through the league behind Ogwumike's fabulous senior season, which saw her natural leadership skills blossom fully. She has increased her scoring (21.6) and rebounding (10.5) averages, plus is shooting a career-best 82.8 percent from the foul line. About the only one who can hang with her on the boards is younger sister Chiney, a Stanford sophomore.|
|Elena Delle Donne, F/G, junior, Delaware: After leading Team USA in scoring in the World University Games last summer, sharing that roster with Skylar Diggins and Nneka Ogwumike, Delle Donne proceeded to take apart college defenses at every opportunity. The Colonial Athletic Association is an underrated league, but if you question her numbers because of her surroundings, consider the 40 points she scored against Penn State or the 32 she put up against Maryland. Despite constant double- and triple-teams, she shoots 53 percent from the floor, 44 percent from the 3-point line and has committed just one turnover for every 12 field goal attempts.||Elena Delle Donne, F/G, junior, Delaware: She'll get well-deserved consideration for player of the year, as she has become the multifaceted superstar that everyone thought she would turn into. Delle Donne has blossomed as a nearly unstoppable offensive force, averaging a national-best 28.3 points per game with an amazingly versatile attack. There's just no place on court where she doesn't look comfortable with the ball. She's also pulling down 10.4 rebounds. And as important, her personality is humble and completely team-oriented. The Blue Hens won the CAA regular-season title at 18-0, and their 27 victories thus far is a school record.|
|Julie Wojta, G/F, senior, Green Bay: In an age in which literal rules, there is a Bunyan-esque quality to the numbers out of Green Bay. Two days after a loss ended her team's perfect season, Wojta put up 30 points, 20 rebounds, 8 steals, 5 assists and 4 blocks. She had 11 steals in the first half of another game. She finished the regular season averaging 19.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.5 steals per game, while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 81 percent from the line. She means as much to her team as any of her peers, and her team is ranked No. 10 in the nation. You do the math.||Skylar Diggins, G, junior, Notre Dame: After she led the Irish to the NCAA title game last season, her profile was raised nationally. The added attention hasn't hurt at all. This season, she has sparked Notre Dame to two victories against UConn and the program's first outright Big East regular-season title. Diggins is shooting 52.5 percent from the field while leading the Irish in scoring (17.0), assists (189) and steals (88). Few players her age seem to grasp the sense of the moment as consistently as Diggins does. Despite losing the league tournament title game, Diggins looks ready for another long NCAA tournament run.|
|Skylar Diggins, G, junior, Notre Dame: She's the most dominant personality in the college game at the moment, and she absolutely has the game to go with the charisma. Diggins led her team to the Final Four a season ago, but she has been better by almost every measure this season. A season ago, she shot 43 percent from the floor and had almost as many turnovers as assists. This season, she's shooting better than 50 percent with a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. The numbers only back up what's evident watching her: Notre Dame's floor general commands a court like no one else.||Odyssey Sims, G, sophomore, Baylor: She never seems rattled, always having the right amount of energy that a team needs from its floor leader. Sims -- 14.5 ppg, 4.7 apg, 45.6 percent shooting from the field -- also has a propensity for making the big play right when needed and is an excellent defender. Sims was thrust into the starting point guard's role as a freshman when Kelli Griffin left the team just before the 2010-11 season began. Baylor expected to bring along Sims a bit more slowly as she was rehabbing a knee injury. She didn't get that luxury, but it turned out that she didn't need it.|
Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.
Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA and additional collegiate sports for espnW. Born in Los Angeles, she grew up 40 miles north of St. Louis and is a lifelong Cardinals fan still basking in amazement over their 2011 World Series title.
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