There are very few basketball players who have accomplished as much as Lisa Leslie. The former three-time WNBA MVP has won on the professional level and has a rare four Olympic gold medals. After a terrific college career at the University of Southern California, it is clear that she understands college basketball. With the Women’s and Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments preparing for March Madness, I spoke with Lisa Leslie about the Women’s NCAA Tournament Bracket, the potential talents available in the 2014 WNBA Draft, and her recent activities with the Capital One Cup.
MH: What are some of the stories you are looking forward to with the Women’s NCAA Tournament this year?
Lisa Leslie: The race to the Regional Finals will be interesting. If Notre Dame and Baylor happen to meet, I think that would be a great game. If (Baylor guard) Odyssey Sims can push past Notre Dame and their head coach Muffett McGraw, whose team plays excellently on both ends of the floor, both offensively and defensively. I think that the possibility of South Carolina facing Stanford in a Regional Final at Stanford would be a tough game for South Carolina on Stanford's floor. It would be interesting to see those matchups as well. Another team is Louisville, I know that they are disappointed to be a 3 seed as opposed to a number 2 but if they can make it to the Regional Semifinals and Finals on their floor that would be pretty amazing. They definitely have to upset West Virginia to do that though.
MH: Which seniors do you see as possible impact players in the 2014 WNBA Draft?
Lisa Leslie: I think that you cannot ignore what Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike has been able to do out on the floor with the ball. She's improved offensively and defensively. She was the PAC-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. I think that she is high on everyone's list. Baylor's Odyssey Sims has just been phenomenal. She averages slightly over 28 points per game from the point guard spot, which is really getting it done. Another player on her team, Nina Davis, scores close to 15 points per game so Odyssey really carries the load and has played an excellent year of basketball. I'm really interested to see where she ends up on this year's WNBA Draft. Ogwumike and Sims are the two top players I'm keeping my eye on and think that they can be big impact players right out of the gate. Stefanie Dolson is a senior from Connecticut to also look out for. She has nice size and would flourish with a team fit for her style like a San Antonio Silver Stars, which would use her in such a great way to have her be super effective. It will be interesting to see where she lands also as somebody a lot of teams could use.
MH: Lisa, you are an Advisory Board member of the Capital One Cup. What implications could a national championship win have on the race for the Capital One Cup?
Lisa Leslie: It is great that you ask that. Currently in the Women's Standings of the Capital One Cup, Penn State is number one and the UConn women are number 12 right now but if the UConn women win the tournament, they would get to the top of the standings and be in first place. It is interesting how winning the 60 points is really crucial and can move any school up to the top. On the men's side, Florida State is number one but they aren't in the Men's Basketball Tournament so there will not be any impact there but Michigan State is. On my Men's Tournament Bracket, I have Michigan State making it to the Final Four against Florida so they may gain some points if they can make it all the way.
Overall, the competition for the Capital One Cup is about bragging rights as every school wants the right to say they’re the best. At the end of the spring athletics season, the winning men's and women's athletics programs earn the Capital One Cup trophy and a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships. Aside from the beautiful Capital One Cup trophy and the combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships, the winning men’s and women’s athletics programs are honored at the July ESPY Awards. It’s a big deal. Fans can follow the Capital One Cup race at www.facebook.com/CapitalOneCup or go to Capital One Cup on Twitter. Also, fans can follow me on Twitter at Lisa Leslie.