By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Let’s get this out of the way.
I am a die-hard Tennessee Lady Vols fan. I love and adore Pat Summitt. Her 8 national titles are a celebration in my home every March.
The first championship came in 1987 in Austin, Texas. It was the first time a 6-year-old me was proud of my home state. Tennessee was champions across the nation. Then Coach Summitt followed it up with titles in 1989 and 1991. My heart was official bleeding orange.
After the Lady Volunteers’ great run from 1996 to 98, the women’s college basketball level of competition increased seven fold. It was the greatness of Tennessee as a program that pushed teams across the America to step their games up.
Now we have good teams like Gonzaga, Stanford and Oregon out West. Down South you will hear about programs like South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State having serious runs at the crown.
Up East and along the coast we have heard about Maryland, Duke, North Carolina and the new queens of the game the UConn Lady Huskies.
In the heart of America there are loads of good teams and one that stands out is Notre Dame. With an impressive list of legendary players, the Irish I want to feature before we jump into my top 10 is Arike Ogunbowale.
This hoopster hit two incredible last-second shots during the 2018 Final Four. Ogunbowale exemplifies this countdown. She was clutch, a champion and number cruncher. Ogunbowale scored 414 career points in 19 NCAA Tournament games to rank sixth all-time.
So let’s see who ranks ahead of Ogunbowale on my best NCAA Women’s College Basketball Tournament performers of all time.
10. Seimone Augustus (2004-06)
The only player on my list without a National Title is LSU Lady Tiger legend Seimone Augustus. Despite never holding up the championship hardware, Augustus left Baton Rouge with an all-time greats’ resume. She was a two-time Naismith and Wooden Award winner. Then when it came time for March, Augustus did her part for the Lady Tigers. She tallied 374 points in 19 career NCAA Tournament games. She guided LSU to three straight Final Four appearances during her tenure in the Southeastern Conference.
9. Brittney Griner (2012)
The most intimidating force in NCAA Women’s College Basketball history, Baylor’s Brittney Griner earned her spot on this list with a senior season for the ages. The 6-foot-, 9-inch center has the record dunks in a career in women’s basketball on that level. She also used her size to block shots and force changes in opponents game plans. Griner was a three-time All-American was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. It was that season she led the Lady Bears to the school’s second National Championship. Baylor finished the season 40-0. Griner posted a tournament-record 105 career blocks and is tied for the most made free throws, with 117 through 18 games. She scored 403 points during her tournament career. Her 14 blocks in a 2010 second-round game vs. Georgetown remains a tourney record.
8. Bridgette Gordon
(1987 & 89)
If Pat Summitt is the queen of Lady Vols hoops, that means Bridgette Gordon is the first princess of the program. Gordon was the driving force behind the Lady Volunteers finally capturing the top spot in 1987. Then she closed out her career with another National Championship earning herself Hall of Fame status. She ranks eighth in NCAA Tournament history with 388 points in 18 games from 1986-89. Gordon made 155 field goals during her time in orange playing March games. She was named the Most Outstanding Player for her efforts in 1989.
7. Candace Parker
Another two-time national champion on this list from Knoxville is Candace Parker. Dunking in a tournament game — check. Being the go-to player down the stretch — check. Shining on the biggest stage — check.
Parker passed all the marks and has gone down as one of the best women’s basketball players on all levels. In winning back-to-back national champion for the Lady Volunteers, she earned Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament in both years. Parker ranks among the tournament’s all-time leaders with 322 points and 40 blocks over 16 career games.
6. Maya Moore (2009-10)
Maya Moore suffers from making it look too easy. She was smooth and her a versatile playing style. She could dominate from the perimeter to the paint. Throughout her exceptional career for the UConn Lady Huskies, Moore racked up several individual awards and four Final Four appearances. They won titles with undefeated seasons in 2009 and 2010. Moore was named the MOP for her performance in 2010. She ranks second all-time with 476 career NCAA Tournament points in 22 games, draining 59 three-pointer.
5. Breanna Stewart
At UConn, Head Coach Geno Auriemma graduates one legend and welcomes in another feature icon. Breanna Stewart stands in that line of greatness with Maya Moore, Rebecca Lobo, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and more. Some argue that Stewart is the greatest players in women’s NCAA Tournament history. I have four ranked ahead of her, but she’s in the running. Steward and the Lady Huskies won the national title all four years. Stewart wasn’t just on the court taking up space. She won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award a record four times. In 23 career tournament games, Stewart ranks third all-time with 446 points. Her 207 rebounds is third all time in tournament history.
4. Cheryl Miller (1983-84)
One of the pioneers of women’s hoops is the legendary Cheryl Miller. She helped put the Women’s NCAA Tournament on the map back in the early 1980s. At the University of Southern California, Miller and her Lady Trojans teammates won two straight National Championships in 1983-84.
Miller did it with style and swag. She dropped 333 points in her 16 tournament games while grabbing 10.6 rebounds a contest. Her 91 foul shots made ranks among the best ever.
3. Sheryl Swoopes (1993)
Sheryl Swoopes is not like her other female counterparts on this list. Her resume’ is more like the 10 men I featured the previous week. She had one fantastic tournament run and led an underdog to a title. Who has heard of Texas Tech Lady Red Raiders since 1993? I know right.
Swoopes is known for her professional accomplishments as well like four WNBA champions, three Olympic gold medals and having the first women’s signature show with the “Air Swoopes.”
But it all started with a glorious March run in 1993 with Texas Tech. She led the Red Raiders to their only national title in 1993. Swoopes earned Most Outstanding Player honors for the tournament, highlighted by her 47 points against Ohio State in the national game. She dropped 177 points in 1993, most for one single tournament.
2. Diana Taurasi (2002-04)
Like Swoopes, Diana Taurasi’s is a basketball legend with four gold medals and three WNBA titles. But Taurasi was icon once she walked off the UConn campus in 2004. Some argue she is still the greatest Lady Husky ever and should be on the Mt. Rushmore of Women’s College Basketball.
It was at UConn Taurasi was the star of three straight national title. She was the Most Outstanding Player in 2003 and 2004. In 23 NCAA Tournament games, Taurasi totaled 428 points, made a record 61 three-pointers, and dished out 106 assists. She was the Larry Bird of the women’s game, and she has three more titles than him for her efforts.
1. Chamique Holdsclaw (1996-98)
No player has scored more career points than the great Chamique Holdsclaw with 479. She still holds that NCAA Tournament record. The woman known as Mique wasn’t meek on the court. She was fierce in leading the Tennessee Lady Vols to three straight titles. Her final championship in 1998 concluded a 38-0 record for the Lady Vols. Holdsclaw has also made the most field goals with 195 in tournament history. She’s among the top rebounders with 198 in 22 games.
Holdsclaw was named the Most Outstanding Player in 1997 and 1998. And she holds the crown as the best individual performer in NCAA Women’s Tournament history.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to email@example.com.