Who’s the top women’s player of the year candidate in every conference?

Sure, Sabrina Ionescu makes national awards more and more of a foregone conclusion with each triple-double she adds to the record book. But 32 players will soon earn conference player of the year honors, recognized as the most influential players in their own basketball kingdoms.

So as conference tournaments open as early as Sunday — and the women’s NCAA tournament tips off March 20 — we handicap the player of the year races in all 32 Division I conferences.

Here’s the criteria we emphasized:

  • Season-long performance matters for context, but these real-life awards are designed to reward performance in conference games. These picks therefore emphasize the same thing, and all statistics referenced are conference-only stats, unless otherwise noted.

  • The debate about most outstanding versus most valuable never ends when it comes to sports awards. But the reality is that a player from a team that isn’t at least competitive in its conference has to do something truly spectacular to win. For the most part, the top half of any conference produces the award winners.

  • And yes, most conferences have more than two worthy candidates. But lest this run to the length of a Russian novel, we capped each conference at two players.

  • And while there are a few cases in which one team arguably had the conference’s top two or three candidates (we’re looking at you, UConn), we operated under the assumption that the best candidate from that team eliminates her teammates.

Navigate to each league:

American | ACC | America East | A10 | Atlantic Sun
Big East | Big Sky | Big South | Big Ten | Big 12 | Big West
CAA | C-USA | Horizon | Ivy | MAAC | MAC
MEAC | MVC | MW | NEC | OVC | Pac-12 | Patriot
SEC | SoCon | Southland | SWAC | Summit | Sun Belt | WAC | WCC

American Athletic Conference

Front-runner: Megan Walker, UConn

Like her team, she still is trying to prove she can score efficiently against the best in the country. But also like her team, she clearly is playing at a higher level than the rest of the conference. In the league, her 19.3 points per game come on 54% shooting overall and 46% 3-point shooting.



Megan Walker catches fire from deep, knocking down 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter.

Top competition: IImar’I Thomas, Cincinnati

Thomas (19.2 PPG, 8.4 rebounds per game, 59% shooting) has the Bearcats headed toward 20-plus wins and the postseason for the second year in a row.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Front-runner: Dana Evans, Louisville

One of the preseason’s biggest questions was who would replace Asia Durr. Evans answered early and emphatically. Her ability to shoot (42% behind the arc), drive (89% free throws) and distribute (second in ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio) makes her so difficult to defend.



Dana Evans shows off her speed as she rushes into the paint, fakes out her NC State defender and hits an and-1 in the first quarter.

Top competition: Elissa Cunane, NC State

Coming off an impressive freshman season, she adjusted to the college game more quickly than defenses have adjusted to her as a sophomore.

America East Conference

Front-runner: Maeve Carroll, Maine

With reigning America East player of the year Blanca Millan out for the season, Carroll helped Maine remain Stony Brook’s top challenger. Carroll averages close to a double-double in American East games (15.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG), but the forward also is seventh in the conference in assists.

Top competition: Kai Moon, Binghamton

The national scoring leader early in the season, Moon’s offensive inefficiency took a toll. But she still is the league’s most prolific scorer (20.1 PPG in all games, 18.9 PPG in conference) and creates far more turnovers than she commits.

Atlantic 10 Conference

Front-runner: Bre Cavanaugh, Fordham

While there are more efficient scorers, Cavanaugh gets the job done (20.9 PPG in A-10 games) in a way that consistently produces wins for the Rams. She has played roughly 98% of the available minutes in A-10 games, which indicates plenty about her value.

Top competition: Jayla Scaife, Dayton

She is the cornerstone of the league’s stingiest defense. And that matters for a team running away with the league despite shooting 38% on offense.

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