Canadians to watch in NCAA women's March Madness

Kia Nurse is a two-time NCAA champion and will play in her final March Madness tournament this season.
Kia Nurse is a two-time NCAA champion and will play in her final March Madness tournament this season.

Conference tournaments have already begun for women’s NCAA basketball teams across the U.S. as over 300 teams battle for spots in the March Madness tournament.

Only 64 teams — including the 32 teams that will receive automatic qualification — will make it to the single-elimination tournament that will eventually crown this year’s NCAA champion.

The Selection Show for the remaining 32 teams is only ten days away (on Monday, March 12) and then the madness will begin.

Canadian women’s basketball fans will have lots of action to watch; here are the top five players from north of the border to keep an eye out for as the madness gets set to begin.

1. Kia Nurse, University of Connectiut

Nurse has become a staple in Canadian basketball; she’s won two gold medals and one silver at FIBA tournaments with Team Canada, as well as a gold medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. She also played a league game for UCONN in Toronto in front of a sold-out crowd at Ryerson University earlier this season.

After earning the AAC Freshman of the Year award in 2015, she’s now a two-time NCAA champion and now, in her senior year, she’ll be looking to earn a third title.

The Hamilton native is currently averaging 14.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Her 1.3 steals per game helped her earn American’s Defensive Player of the Year honours this season. In addition to that, she also received an Academic All-American third team honour.

UCONN is ranked first in the American Athletic Conference with a 29-0 record. Nurse scored a season-high 27 points in a game against Nevada on Nov. 28, and has recorded seven 20+ games so far this year.

2. Bridget Carleton, Iowa State University

Carleton holds Iowa State’s school record for the most individual points in league play with 347 this season, and she’s only in her junior year.

The Chatham, Ontario native is averaging 18.8 points per game, to go along with 6.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.1 steals and and almost a block per game. And in Big 12 play, she’s been even better: averaging 19.3 points per game. She’s also shown remarkably consistency reaching double figures in all 29 of her team’s games this season.

The 6’1″ guard has earned a unanimous All-Big 12 First Team vote-in for two seasons in a row after racking-up two Big 12 Player of Week honours and five Big 12 Freshman of the Week honours over her career.

Iowa State is ranked eighth going into their conference tournament.

3. Shaina Pellington, University of Oklahoma

Pellington has made an immediate impact on the third-ranked (in the Big 12 conference) Oklahoma women’s basketball team this season.

The 5’7″ guard from Pickering, Ontario was named Big 12 Conference Freshman of Year after averaging almost 13 points per game and over two rebounds and assists per game. She earned six 20+ games in her first year playing college ball.

She also ranks second nationally among division one freshman in field goal percentage, shooting almost 50 percent from the floor. Pellington also boasts four conference Freshman of the Week awards this season.

4. Emily Potter, University of Utah

Although Potter was the second-leading scorer on Utah this season, she is the only player in Ute history to tally more than 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 blocks in their career.

The 6’6″ center from Winnipeg, Manitoba averaged 12.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and led her team in blocks with 53.

Potter earned All-Defensive honourable mention selections for three straight seasons, along with being named to the All-Conference honourable mention team in 2017, and grabbing first-team honours in 2016. This season, she earned honourable mentions for the All-Conference and All-Defensive teams once again.

She also earned a spot on the Academic All-District team.

Utah ranks eighth in the Big 12 heading into their conference tournament.

5. Shay Colley, Michigan State University

Colley missed seven games with the Spartans due to a knee injury, but when she came back, she was ready to go.

The starting guard, from Brampton, Ontario, played 23 games with Michigan State this year and averaged 11.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and two steals per game. She shot almost 40 percent from the field and was the leading scorer on the 10th place team.

She had a season-high 27 points on Dec. 21 against the University of South Florida.

Colley matched her season-high in the team’s first game in the Big Ten conference tournament on March 1 in addition to her four rebounds and five assists. The Spartans took Indiana into four overtime periods, and dropped the game 111-109.

The game is the longest in Big Ten tournament history, and it ended Michigan State’s year.

But don’t worry — Colley will be back with a vengeance next year.

Colley gave it everything she had in the loss to Indiana — and was the victim of a big error at the end of the first OT when her buzzer-beater was waved off after a clock error. That shot would have won the game for the Spartans.

BONUS: Hailey Brown, University of Michigan

You won’t be able to see Brown in action during the postseason after she suffered a lower leg injury on Feb. 11, but this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning her incredible season.

Brown did something special this season; she started every single game in her freshman year.

The 6’1″ forward averaged 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in non-conference games, and 9 points and 5.2 rebounds overall. She also racked-up 20 blocks and 16 steals throughout the year.

The Michigan Wolverines were ranked sixth in the Big 10 after the regular season.

More NCAA coverage on Yahoo Canada Sports: