UConn freshman guard Paige Bueckers and South Carolina sophomore forward Aliyah Boston, who will attempt to lead their No. 1-seeded teams into the Elite Eight this weekend, were among college basketball players named finalists Friday for the 2021 John R. Wooden Award.
Louisville senior guard Dana Evans and Baylor junior forward NaLyssa Smith, whose second-seeded teams also will compete in the Sweet 16, were also named finalists for the Wooden, awarded annually to the top player in women’s college basketball.
Kentucky junior guard Rhyne Howard rounded out the finalists, who were also named to the 2021 John R. Wooden Award Presented by Wendy’s All American Team. Howard’s fourth-seeded Wildcats were upset by Iowa in the second round of the women’s NCAA tournament.
All five players were also named to The Associated Press All-America first team earlier this month.
Bueckers leads UConn with 19.9 points per game, 6.0 assists and 2.4 steals. The No. 1-ranked Huskies face the Hawkeyes in the regional semifinals on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App). Bueckers joined Maya Moore as the only UConn players to sweep Big East Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors in the same season.
The new women’s NCAA tournament favorite according to ESPN’s Basketball Percentage Index, Baylor plays sixth-seeded Michigan on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App) in the Sweet 16. Smith, the Big 12 Player of the Year, is averaging 18.0 points and 9.0 rebounds — team highs in both categories — for the Lady Bears.
A two-time ACC Player of the Year, Evans is averaging a team-high 19.6 points and 4.0 assists for Louisville, which plays sixth-seeded Oregon on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App). Boston, who has compiled 66 points and 35 rebounds in her past three games, leads South Carolina into its Sweet 16 matchup with fifth-seeded Missouri State on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App). Boston is averaging a double-double at 14.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.
Howard, a two-time SEC Player of the Year, averaged 20.7 points and 7.3 rebounds this season.
The Wooden Award honoring the top women’s college basketball player was established in 2004. Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu won the award in 2018-19 and 2019-20. The 2021 Wooden Award winner will be revealed following the NCAA tournament in April.