If the No. 2 Gamecocks want to break UConn's string of three straight NCAA titles, they'll need to rely on Coates. The junior is third on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg) and first in rebounding (9.6 rpg), and the attention she attracts opens things up for the rest of her squad. Against Winthrop in December, she had the first triple double in the history of the South Carolina women's program, scoring 29 points, grabbing 16 rebounds, and adding 10 blocks.
The Blue Devils have moved in and out of the Top 25, but one thing has remained constant: Stevens putting up big numbers in important games. Against ranked opponents, the 6'6" sophomore has averaged 13.3 points and 10 rebounds. Against rival North Carolina at the end of January, she scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. If intense games bring out the best in this sophomore, Duke could exceed expectations.
The Cardinal captain joined elite company early when she opened the season with four straight double doubles. The only other Stanford player to achieve that feat in the past decade was WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike. In a close loss to powerhouse Texas in December, McCall had 14 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks. If Stanford wants to return to the Final Four for the seventh time in the last nine years, the junior has to play a big part.
Photos: Stephen B. Morton (Coates), James Crisp/AP (Stevens), Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP (McCall)