There is still a lot of basketball to be played this season, but there are currently three strong candidates for national player of the year. Each of them could win it for different reasons, whether it comes down to stats or the impact they make on their team.
South Carolina star Aliyah Boston is looking to repeat after a dominant 2021-22 season, but Iowa's Caitlin Clark and LSU's Angel Reese could also emerge as the winner this season. Here is a closer look at the top three POTY candidates:
Caitlin Clark, Iowa
Clark was a solid POTY contender last season but couldn't quite pass Boston -- the top player on the team that won the 2022 national championship. This season Clark is staying consistent and putting up big numbers as the second best scorer in the nation at 27.2 points per game. She also leads the nation in assists at 8.2 per game.
The point guard is a dominant offensive weapon and is currently in the middle of an 81-game streak of scoring in double figures, which is an NCAA Division I best. She has made at least one 3-pointer in 89 career games, including 48 consecutive games.
Clark has nine triple-doubles through her career at Iowa -- which is tied for second-best in NCAA women's basketball history. She reached 2,000 career points during her 75th college basketball game in December -- becoming just the seventh Iowa men's or women's basketball player to score 2,000 points.
Iowa head coach Lisa Blunder has been feeling confident that Clark's stats make her the top player of the year candidate.
"I don't know how you cannot say that Caitlin Clark is not the national player of the year," Bluder said after Clark picked up 42 points, eight assists and seven rebounds against then-No. 8 Maryland. "I don't know how you can say that she is not. She was unbelievable."
Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
Boston earned the Naismith Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards last season and continues to be one of the best players on the best team in the country this year. Ironically, being a star on the top team in the nation -- a team that has been ranked No. 1 for 36 consecutive weeks -- might be what could hurt her chances at winning another POTY award.
The Gamecocks haven't lost a game in 2023, and although Boston is still one of their biggest keys to success, there is a lot of talent around her -- therefore her stats are not quite the same as they were the previous season. Boston came back in the fall as South Carolina's returning leader in scoring, rebounds, blocks and steals. She averaged 16.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game through her 2021-22 campaign while picking up 30 double-doubles -- including 27 straight.
This season, Boston "only" leads her team in rebounding and blocks. She is averaging a respectable 13.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game with a total of 14 steals and 58 blocks. Part of her statistical decline is because opponents know how strong Boston is and they double or triple-team her accordingly. There is also the fact that players such as Zia Cooke and Camilla Cardoso have become stronger contributors this season. South Carolina was solid on defense and rebounding last season, but this year the roster is deeper and better offensively.
If you ask head coach Dawn Staley, she'll say Boston still deserves another player of the year award. Earlier in February, Staley declared that "there's not anyone in the country that produces on both sides of the basketball. Nobody."
Boston showed off her elite defenseagainst another player of the year contender who is about to be mentioned.
Angel Reese, LSU
Angel Reese's confidence is as strong as her stats. The sophomore arrived at LSU from Maryland as the top player in the transfer portal in 2022, and right away she proved to be a difference maker for the Tigers. She has big goals and is not afraid to share them.
"A lot of great players have come before me," Reese said during a January press conference."On the 15th, Seimone Augustus, her statue is going up. I want to be like that. I want to set records, I want a statue up one day."
Reese is putting up monster numbers across the board, averaging 23.7 points, 16.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, leading LSU in each category. She is hard to stop offensively as she is shooting 54.4% from the field. She registered a double-double in all but one game of the regular 2022-23 regular season. The only team that was able to stop her was South Carolina -- more specifically, Boston.
Reese is perhaps the main reason that LSU is in the middle of one of the best seasons in program history. The Tigers were ranked No. 16 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, but the only returning starter was Alexis Morris, so it was unclear how good LSU would really be. Reese stepping up has helped lift the team. The Tigers hadn't even been in the top five of the AP poll since 2009, but they've surpassed expectations and became the last undefeated teams in the nation.