Caitlin Clark is the clear favorite for the 2023-24 women’s college basketball national player of the year. The Iowa guard became a household name last season, winning every major postseason award for which she was eligible. She even transcended women’s basketball by taking home the Sullivan Award, given to the year’s best amateur athlete.
But despite being the preseason front-runner, Clark has plenty of competition.
Paige Bueckers is back from a season lost to a knee injury, and the UConn guard won most of the national player of the year honors when she and Clark were freshmen in 2020-21. LSU‘s Angel Reese also returns after outdueling Clark for a national championship and the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player in April.
All these players will be among the favorites to win player of the year in their respective leagues. But they aren’t the only ones. It’s time to break down the prospective winners in all 32 conferences.
Some are fifth- and sixth-year seniors looking for one more season of success. Others are young players about to make their mark, or transfers from big-name schools looking to renew their careers at mid-majors. All will have a chance to pick up some hardware at season’s end.
Navigate to each league:
American | America East | ACC | Atlantic Sun | A-10 | Big 12 | Big East | Big Sky | Big South | Big Ten | Big West | CAA | C-USA | Horizon | Ivy | MAAC | MAC | MEAC | MVC | MW | NEC | OVC | Pac-12 | Patriot | SEC | SoCon | Southland | SWAC | Summit | Sun Belt | WCC | WAC
American Athletic Conference
After being named AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player and first-team all-conference, the big prize is about the only honor left for McNeal to win as she enters her fifth season. McNeal’s scoring average jumped from 8.4 PPG to 17.4 PPG, which was good for second in the league. She also ranked eighth in the country with 97 steals for the AAC tournament champs.
The Bulls’ top returning scorer at 15.6 PPG, Puisis also led the AAC in 3-point shooting percentage (38.7%).
With teammate and 2022 conference POY Anne Simon sidelined for much of last season with injuries, Smith came out of nowhere to win the award in 2023. Smith jumped from 2.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game as a freshman to a league-leading 18.0 PPG and 9.5 RPG last year. Her 23.5 PPG and 10.3 RPG in conference games marked the first time since 1994 that an America East player averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The America East leader in assists, Utterback is a big reason why the Catamounts had their best season in 13 years.
Astonishingly consistent over the past three seasons, Kitley is the reigning two-time conference player of the year. Adding the honor this year would mean joining Alana Beard and Alyssa Thomas as the only three-time winners. Kitley has averaged 18.1, 18.2 and 18.2 points and 10.4, 9.8 and 10.7 rebounds per game the past three seasons all while shooting between 53.1% and 55.8% from the field.
Much of Miles’ All-American potential and Notre Dame’s fate this season hinges on her recovery from a knee injury suffered late last season. It doesn’t appear she will start the season on the court, but when she gets to a 100%, Miles might be the best passing point guard in the country.
After one season at Little Rock and two more at Marquette, Walker settled into EKU, earning ASUN Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-conference. She led the league in scoring (21.0 PPG) and steals (2.4 SPG) and was second in rebounding (9.4 RPG).
A grad transfer from SIU Edwardsville, Thatha earned all-OVC honors with 13.7 points and a league-leading 9.7 rebounds per game. She will play her fifth year with the Eagles, looking to be the best player on the A-SUN’s best team.
A summer of international basketball a year ago for the France native propelled her from a little-used player on Rhode Island’s bench to the Rams’ best player. She led the A-10 regular-season co-champs in scoring (13.8 PPG) and rebounding (8.2 RPG). An outstanding athlete and tireless worker, Toure might be ready to be the conference’s best player.
In her four collegiate seasons (including three at Longwood), McMakin has never averaged fewer than 17.2 points per game. Her 27 points against UMass in the A-10 title game propelled the Billikens to their first conference tournament championship.
Paige Bueckers, 5-11, G, UConn Huskies
It feels so long ago that Bueckers was the best player in college basketball, but it was only 2020-21 that she took home every national player of the year. Injuries cost her much of 2021-22 and all of last season. But she showed her ability to bounce back when her recovery two years ago led to Huskies run to the national championship game. That included a Bridgeport Regional MOP and a Final Four all-tournament selection for Bueckers. Completely healthy, Bueckers will be back in the running for national honors again.
Top competition: Aaliyah Edwards, 6-3, F, UConn Huskies
UConn guard Azzi Fudd could be thrown into the mix here as well, with the Huskies expected to dominate the Big East if they stay healthy. Edwards is the one UConn star who has been healthy throughout her career, and she blossomed last season as one of the best frontcourt players in the country. She led the Huskies with 16.6 points per game and the Big East with a 58.9 field goal percentage.
After three seasons with minimal playing time at Arizona State, Loera joined the Eagles and became the Big Sky’s Defensive Player of the Year (2.6 SPG). She also ranked third in the conference in assists (5.1 APG) and scored 11.4 points per game.
An all-conference honoree in each of the last three seasons, Gfeller led the Lady Griz in scoring (14.2 PPG) and emerged as one of the Big Sky’s best shooters.
Second in the POY voting last year with Gardner-Webb, Bevis brings 15.4 points per game and 40.9% 3-point shooting to the Panthers for her bonus season.
Blossoming as a junior, Ezumah was named first-team all-Big South while setting career highs with 10.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG.
One of the best defensive players in the country regardless of position, Harmon is the glue that kept the Longhorns together on their way to a share of the Big 12 regular-season title. Her 7.4 assists per game were a program record, and she and Caitlin Clark were the only players in the country last season to average over 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
A potential breakout star as a sophomore, Littlepage-Buggs was one of the best freshmen in the country last season. She was a unanimous choice as the top rookie in the Big 12. With the Bears now fully separated from the Kim Mulkey era, Littlepage-Buggs might be the face of the program.
Caitlin Clark, 6-0, G, Iowa Hawkeyes
The Big Ten has a host of good players, but Clark as Big Ten Player of the Year might be the easiest prediction of the 32. There is no more dynamic scorer in the game, and she has also led the country in assists two years running. Her shooting range is incomparable, and no player elicits more excitement. Clark’s career averages of 27.2 points, 7.9 assists and 7.0 rebounds are staggering.
In most leagues, in most years, Holmes would be a heavy favorite to be a conference player of the year. Clark makes that nearly impossible in the Big Ten. Holmes, whose decision to stay for a fifth year keeps Indiana among the best teams in the country, was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American.
In two seasons Wahinekapu has been the Big West Freshman of the Year at Cal State Fullerton and a first-team all-conference team selection at Hawaii. She led the Rainbow Wahine in points (12.9 PPG), assists (2.9 APG), steals (1.7 SPG), minutes (32.2 MPG), 3-point percentage (33.1%) and free throws.
The Aggies’ all-time leading 3-point shooter, Turner led the Big West in scoring last season at 15.1 PPG.
Coastal Athletic Association
After leaving Virginia, Kornegay-Lucas has been the CAA Sixth Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Her offense was on display last season as well, leading the Tigers in scoring (14.0 PPG), rebounding (7.3 RPG) and assists (4.0 PPG).
In her first season with the Cougars, Logan was second in the CAA in scoring (18.0 PPG) and recorded the second triple-double in program history.
Wheeler was the top scorer (15.1 PPG) on a Blue Raiders’ team that set the CUSA record for most league wins (18). She also led the Blue Raiders in assists.
A former four-star recruit, Salary played the last two seasons at Ole Miss and now has a great opportunity with the Lady Toppers.
Primed to be one of the best players in Horizon League history, Leo will be attempting to defend her 2023 Player of the Year trophy. For the second straight season, Leo led the league in scoring (17.9 PPG) and was among the country’s best free throw shooters (91.1%).
One of the most decorated recruits in Oakland history, Quarles-Daniels was the Horizon’s best freshman a year ago and led the Golden Grizzlies with 12.1 points and 3.1 assists per game.
One of the most prolific shooters in the country, Hsu set the Ivy single-season record for 3-pointers and ranked second in the country with 3.3 treys made per game. Her 17.8 points per game led the league — and she could be even better after spending the summer competing with Team USA at the AmeriCup in Mexico.
Last season’s winner and the Ivy League tournament Most Outstanding Player each of the last two years, Chen remains the leader on the Ivy League’s best team.
The only underclassman on the all-MAC first-team, Parker led the conference is scoring (16.9 PPG) and ranked second in the country with 3.4 steals per game. That all helped the Purple Eagles to the postseason as a Division I program for the first time in their history.
If the Saints are to challenge for their first regular-season title since 2004, Brown, coming off a third-team all-MAAC season, will have to be one of the conference’s best players.
With one of the best three-year runs in program history, Lockett will be on every national mid-major player of the year list. She was voted the Mid-American’s best player a year ago after averaging 17.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
The only underclassman to make the all-conference first team, Bass ranked in the top 10 in scoring (17.1 PPG), rebounding (7.7 RPG), field goal percentage (51.3%) and blocks (1.1 BPG).
Few players in the MEAC have ever had the résumé of Johnson. After an all-Big Ten freshman team season at Rutgers, Johnson was the ACC’s Sixth Player of the Year in 2022 and NC State’s leading scorer (12.3 PPG) last season. Her presence makes the Spartans a heavy favorite for a third consecutive regular-season title.
Last year’s winner, Howell led the MEAC in scoring (16.8 PPG) and 3-point field goal percentage (35.6%).
Missouri Valley Conference
Had the Racers been more successful last season (8th place in the MVC), Young might be going for a POY three-peat. She won it in the OVC in 2022 and then led the MVC in scoring (20.1 PPG) and rebounding (8.1 RPG) a year ago. According to HerHoopStats’ advance metrics, she was 12th in the country in offensive win shares.
If UNI is going to win its first MVC title since 2016, Boffeli will need to have a big year. Duplicating last year’s 16.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 55.3% shooting from the field would qualify.
Mountain West Conference
Young won MWC Player of the Year in 2022 and then had an even better season last year but lost out to Colorado State’s McKenna Hofschild. The award is Young’s to lose this time around. The Lady Rebels have been the dominant team in the MWC for consecutive seasons, and Young is a big reason why. Last year she led the league in rebounding (10.2 RPG) and was second in points per game (17.8) and field goal percentage (59.4%).
The two best players in the MWC might be centers, a rarity in the modern game, but it was Fertig (13.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 59.6 FG%) who elevated the Cowgirls to second place in the conference and a WNIT berth.
No freshman dominated her league the way Pryor did in the NEC. She led the conference in scoring (17.7 PPG), assists (4.3 APG) and steals (3.7 SPG) and became the first in league history to win player of the year, freshman of the year and defensive player of the year in the same season.
Merrimack enjoyed its best season since moving to Division I in 2019-2020. DeCesare was a big part of it with 10.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game and a first-team all-league nod.
Ohio Valley Conference
Expect the Skyhawks to be back near the top of the OVC like they were in 2020 and 2021 — and expect Currie-Jelks to lead them. Last season’s OVC Freshman of the Year was second in scoring (15.2 PPG), fifth in rebounding (6.9 RPG) and first in field goal percentage (53.9%).
With the graduation of Lariah Washington, expect even more opportunity for the Panthers’ second-leading scorer and the OVC’s top returning rebounder.
Cameron Brink, 6-4, F, Stanford Cardinal
As last season wore on it became clear that Brink was Stanford’s best player. That will be the case from day one this year, when she will be the No. 1 option for the Cardinal every trip up the floor. She set career highs in points, rebounds and assists in 2022-23, but most notable were her 3.5 blocks per game. Those solidified her status as one of the best defensive players in the country.
Last year’s winner, Pili led the conference in scoring (20.7 PPG) and field goal percentage (59.0%). In her first year with the Utes after transferring from USC, Pili transformed the Utes into an elite program, earning their highest NCAA tournament seed ever (No. 2).
Her team’s improvement from a 4-14 league mark might be necessary for Therien’s candidacy, but she has done plenty on her own, averaging a double-double in each of her first two seasons.
Voted the league’s best defensive player last season, Weimar was also BU’s leading scorer (15.5 PPG) and rebounder (10.0 RPG).
Despite a four-year career in the SEC that has seen her average 17.4 points per game over time with both Mississippi State and the Lady Vols, Jackson hasn’t received as much attention as some other conference stars. That might change this season. Her game grew more efficient in her first season in Knoxville. Jackson’s 54.8 field goal percentage was a career best, and her 19.2 PPG ranked third in the conference.
Top competition: Angel Reese, 6-3, F, LSU Tigers
With the arrivals of Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow to LSU, Reese’s numbers that were so eye-popping a year ago (23.0 PPG, 15.4 RPG) might take a hit, but she still easily qualifies as one of the best players in the SEC and in the country.
Rachel Rose, 5-7, G, Wofford Terriers
On Rose’s shoulders, the Terriers won their first conference championship in 2023. She led the team in nearly every offensive statistical category, and the conference coaches selected the sophomore as the player of the year. Another season like that and Rose will probably win over the media, too.
Thompson’s 19-point, nine-rebound performance in the SoCon tournament title game prevented Wofford from reaching its first NCAA tournament. That earned her tournament Most Outstanding Player after she had already won SoCon Freshman of the Year.
Last season’s winner, Westbrook has averaged a double-double and won the SLC’s Defensive Player of the Year in consecutive years. As the Islanders’ leading scorer and the league’s leading rebounder, Westbrook helped Texas A&M-CC win its first conference championship in 2023 (shared with SE Louisiana).
Davis followed up a freshman of the year campaign by finishing second in the league in scoring (14.6 PPG) and rebounding (8.8 RPG) and first in field goal percentage (61.4%) as a sophomore.
The Summit League’s leading scorer each of the last two seasons, Borowicz decided to come back for her bonus year for a three-peat. Borowicz also topped the Summit in assists last season and has been one of the country’s best free throw shooters in her four years in Grand Forks.
Cooper went from 6.5 points per game in 2021-22 to 20.3 last year, good for second in the league to Borowicz. She topped the Summit in steals (2.5 SPG) and minutes (36.9 MPG).
Sun Belt Conference
Despite a drop-off in her 3-point shooting, Davis set a career-high in scoring (17.2 PPG), helping the Lady Eagles to a three-way tie for first place, their first regular-season conference championship in 29 years.
One year after winning Sun Belt Sixth Player of the Year, Ward increased her scoring and rebounding, leading the conference at 18.4 points per game.
The most versatile player on the league’s best team, Boler was especially good down the stretch, scoring in double figures in five of the season’s final six games as the Lady Tigers won their third consecutive SWAC regular-season title.
After getting minimal playing time in two years at Indiana, Wilson transferred to Bethune-Cookman and was the SWAC Newcomer of the Year.
San Antonio’s decision to transfer from Cal Baptist to Grand Canyon could shift the fate of the two programs fighting for a WAC title in 2023-24. San Antonio was a first-team all-WAC selection after filling the stat sheet with 14.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.7 APG and 2.3 SPG.
Gillen enters her fifth season in St. George as the Trailblazers’ all-time assist leader. She was the league leader at 6.5 APG a year ago and finished second in scoring (17.8 PPG).
West Coast Conference
Becoming a full-time starter for the first-time last season, Ejim led the defending regular-season champs in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots, and was a finalist for the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year award.
Top competition: Kaylynne Truong, 5-8, G, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Ejim’s biggest challengers are likely to come from her own team. Truong was last year’s winner after scoring 15.8 points per game and leading the WCC with 5.0 assists per game.