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Swish Appeal’s NCAAW wishes for 2024

After 2023 gave us a multitude of memorable women’s college basketball moments, what can we expect in 2024? Conference changes, fantastic players and—please—no more injuries!

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - National Championship
LSU and Iowa gave us one of the most memorable NCAAW moments of 2023.
Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

We all hope the increased appreciation for women’s college basketball continues into 2024. Here are a few more wishes that should ensure that will happen:

Injury-free seasons for all

My hope is the brightest stars in women’s college basketball are able to stay healthy and available. Already, star players like UConn’s Azzi Fudd have suffered season-ending injuries, stripping them from critical time playing the game they love.

Basketball is inevitably a high-injury sport, but at the collegiate level, time is more limited. For example, Paige Bueckers was a national sensation as a freshman, winning AP Player of the Year and Naismith College Player of the Year, among other awards, but injuries have hampered her since. Will she be able to stay on the court and compete at the same unprecedented level she previously was? My hope is that her surgeries and ailments are behind her.

Ultimately, players’ time in college is limited. And right now, there’s greater national attention on collegiate players than on professionals. So, ensuring NCAA’s stars—and all collegiate players, really—are able to capitalize on the opportunity is critical. I hope that Caitlin Clark, JuJu Watkins, Hannah Hidalgo, Cameron Brink, Angel Reese and the rest of the top players in the women’s collegiate game today go as far as the sport will take them this season, with no major injuries suffered. — Noa Dalzell

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four-Press Conference
After two injury-riddled seasons, it has been wonderful to see a healthy Paige Bueckers again starring for UConn.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Making the Pac-12’s last dance a wonderful waltz

Whether talking about a friendship, a relationship, a job or life itself, we rarely know when something will end. Typically, we have to do the best we can with the information we have. With the Pac-12 ending once and for all this season, we have been given the gift of knowing. All good things come to an end and this is it. So, let’s make it a good one, yeah?

Let’s have more #Pac12AfterDark moments where the score gets wacky and unexpected comebacks happen. Let’s enjoy some West Coast rivalries, like USC vs. UCLA and Cal vs. Washington. Let’s crown one last Pac-12 champ and go dancing in March, rooting for our fave but pulling for the conference to ball out more than any other.

It’s unfortunate that the end is due to greed, television deals and so many other factors that demonstrate that this “amateur” sport is just as capitalism-driven as any professional one. But this is life giving us lemons—so let’s make some lemonade. — Edwin Garcia

NCAA Women’s Basketball: Cal Poly SLO at Southern California
Freshman phenom JuJu Watkins and USC are making the final Pac-12 season a memorable one.
Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images

A good start for the new-look Big Ten

First, a disclaimer: I don’t have a specific collegiate allegiance. I’m located smack-dab in the middle of Big Ten country, and I enjoy watching as many programs in the conference as I can as an impartial fan. But that’s about as connected as I get to B1G women’s hoops.

That being said, I’m absolutely stoked to see how the conference looks after Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington are officially assimilated next season (and trust me, Pac-12 fans, you have my sympathies). These are big-time schools, and while I don’t envy those who need to figure out the logistics of the new-look Big Ten, it’s going to be an extremely competitive conference for women’s basketball, even more so than it already is. And the opportunity to watch players like Kiki Rice and JuJu Watkins in person? Sign me up! — Eric Nemchock

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round - California
UCLA has one of the strongest women’s basketball programs in the country, and they’ll soon be a part of the Big Ten conference.
Photo by John W. McDonough/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

MiLaysia March magic

The season began with MiLaysia Fulwiley introducing her fearless flair to women’s college hoops fans, unleashing an incredible coast-to-coast behind-the-back layup during South Carolina’s first victory. So, maybe the season should end the same way?

Since her sensational opening salvo, the freshman guard has found her way into highlight reels with several other outstanding efforts. However, in the games where the No. 1 Gamecocks have been tested, head coach Dawn Staley hasn’t quite shown full trust in Fulwiley. She saw only three minutes in South Carolina’s win at UNC and just 10 when the Gamecocks met Utah. That Staley has confidence in the reliable perimeter trio of Te-Hina Paopao, Bree Hall and Raven Johnson also prevents Fulwiley from receiving more court time.

Yet, the long conference calendar presents plenty of opportunities for Fulwiley to prove her bona fides. Furthermore, advancing far in March always requires something extra. Fulwiley is the perfect candidate to provide that jolt for the Gamecocks. A series of seemingly impossible shots? A crucial steal and score? An improbable pass for a game-winning 3? An out-of-nowhere weakside block? Whatever it might, I can’t wait to see what Fulwiley does to help South Carolina go all the way this spring. — Cat Ariail

Toby Fournier take over

Toby Fournier is the teen dunking sensation from Toronto, Ontario who is about to make her mark in the NCAA. The 17-year-old committed to Duke earlier this year. She already has represented Canada internationally on multiple levels, leading Canada’s third-ranked U19 national team. With a handle and shooting capability of a young Breanna Stewart—and the dunks!—Fournier is going to be just fine in the NCAA. She currently plays for Crestwood Prep in Toronto, where fellow Canadian-talent Aaliyah Edwards graduated from.

As Toby enters the NCAA world in late 2024, get ready to see an incredible young talent blossom as Fournier becomes a staple on both the American college the scene and the Canadian National Team. — Chelsea Leite