Who's the top 2020-21 player of the year candidate in every women's college basketball conference?

Michigan junior Naz Hillmon is the Big Ten front-runner in perhaps the most hotly contested conference player of the year race. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

The 2020-21 national player of the year award for women's college basketball still feels like an open race between multiple players. The picture is a little more clear in each conference. And this season, because of the coronavirus pandemic, conference play has meant more than ever, especially since some leagues haven't even played nonconference games.

With Selection Monday just more than two weeks away and Championship Week soon to start, we take a look at who is favored to win the player of the year award in each league, and who might be her biggest challenger. With so many games postponed or canceled, and teams not even playing the same number of conference games, these selections are more complicated than usual. But as we head into March Madness, here are ESPN.com's consensus picks for the best players in each league across the country.

Navigate to each league:

American | ACC | America East | A10 | Atlantic Sun
Big East | Big Sky | Big South | Big Ten | Big 12 | Big West
CAA | C-USA | Horizon | MAAC | MAC
MEAC | MVC | MW | NEC | OVC | Pac-12 | Patriot
SEC | SoCon | Southland | SWAC | Summit | Sun Belt | WAC | WCC

American Athletic Conference

Front-runner: Bethy Mununga, South Florida

The Bulls are atop the conference, and the senior forward is averaging a double-double (11.7 PPG, 12.9 RPG) to lead the way. -- Voepel

Top competition: Mia Davis, Temple

A first-team all-conference selection the past two seasons, the senior forward ranks in the league's top three in scoring (18.7), rebounding (7.9) and field goal percentage (46.0). -- Voepel


Front-runner: Dana Evans, Louisville Cardinals

A candidate for national player of the year, the senior is leading the league in scoring (20.8 PPG), plus is averaging 4.3 assists. The guard is in the driver's seat to repeat as ACC player of the year. -- Voepel

Top competition: Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech

The sophomore center ranks in the top three in the league in scoring (19.1 PPG), rebounding (11.1 RPG) and blocked shots (1.9 BPG) to lead the Hokies, who are poised to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006. -- Voepel

America East Conference

Front-runner: Blanca Millan, Maine

The conference's 2019 player of the year returned to dominate again after missing most of last season with a knee injury. Millan's 20.9 PPG in conference games is more than seven points better than the next player on the list. The native of Spain, who is a fifth-year guard, also leads the league in steals (3.1 SPG) and is third in rebounding (6.9 RPG). -- Creme

Top competition: Dor Saar, Maine

The league's second-best player might reside in the same backcourt as Millan. Saar, a senior guard, leads the America East in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and 3-pointers per game, while averaging 9.4 PPG. -- Creme

Atlantic 10 Conference

Front-runner: Ciaja Harbison, Saint Louis

The junior guard is second in the league in scoring (17.9 PPG) and fifth in assists (4.1 APG). She was the Atlantic 10's rookie of the year in 2019 and first-team all-conference last year. -- Voepel

Top competition: Anna DeWolfe, Fordham

The league's leading scorer (22.1 PPG), the sophomore was part of the A-10 all-rookie team last year. Fordham canceled its last five regular-seasons games because of COVID-19 concerns, but will take part in the A-10 tournament. -- Voepel

Atlantic Sun Conference

Front-runner: Kierstan Bell, Florida Gulf Coast

The sophomore guard, a transfer from Ohio State, has led the Eagles to 18 consecutive victories and is averaging a league-leading 25.2 PPG and 11.2 rebounds. -- Voepel

Top competition: Jazz Bond, North Florida

The senior forward is in the top three in the conference in scoring (18.3), rebounding (8.1), blocked shots (2.6) and 3-point percentage (42.2). She is the school's career blocks leader with 188. -- Voepel

Big East Conference

Front-runner: Paige Bueckers, UConn

Freshman of the year awards were expected to roll in. But Bueckers instantly became highly electric and efficient all at the same time, making her one of the best players in the country, not just in the Big East. The guard leads the conference in assists (6.1 APG) and 3-point percentage (51.7%) and is second in scoring (20.1 PPG) and steals (2.4 SPG). -- Creme

Top competition: Maddy Siegrist, Villanova

If the Wildcats have any chance at an NCAA tournament berth, it's almost solely due to the sophomore forward, who leads the league in scoring (23.1 PPG) and rebounds (10.3 RPG). -- Creme

Big Sky Conference

Front-runner: Beyonce Bea, Idaho

Bea scored in double figures in games against Texas, Washington State and Arizona. The sophomore carried that into Big Sky play, where she ranks second in the league in scoring (16.5 PPG), sixth in rebounds (7.8 RPG) and fifth in blocks (1.2 BPG). -- Creme

Top competition: Alisha Davis, Northern Colorado

In her first two seasons, Davis has already established herself as one of the best rebounders in Bears' history and leads the conference this season with almost 10 rebounds per game. -- Creme

Big South Conference

Front-runner: Skyler Curran, High Point

The junior is first in 3-pointers made (74) and 3-point (41.8) and free throw (89.7) percentage. The guard ranks in the top six in scoring (17.8 PPG) and rebounding (7.1 RPG) for league-leading High Point. -- Voepel

Top competition: Akila Smith, Longwood

A defensive standout her first two seasons, the junior forward now also ranks in the league's top five in scoring (15.4 PPG), while also leading in field goal percentage (57.9), rebounding (10.3) and blocks (3.5). -- Voepel

Big Ten Conference

Front-runner: Naz Hillmon, Michigan

In what might be the most hotly contested conference player of the year race in the country, Hillmon could be hurt by Michigan's lack of games relative to some of her competition. But it's hard to go against a player that averages 25.7 PPG (second in the conference) and 11.1 RPG (first) and shoots 64.7% from the field. And throw in a 50-point game for good measure. -- Creme

Top competition: Ashley Owusu, Maryland

Iowa freshman sensation Caitlin Clark has averaged more points and assists, but Owusu (19.3 PPG, 6.0 APG) is the driving force behind the country's highest-scoring offense and the Big Ten's best team. -- Creme

Big 12 Conference

Front-runner: Natasha Mack, Oklahoma State

The senior forward is a projected top-five WNBA draft pick and is averaging a double-double (19.8 PPG, 12.3 RPG) and 2.0 steals per game while also leading Division I in blocked shots (4.0 BPG). She has helped the Cowgirls to 13 conference victories, their most in program history. -- Voepel

Top competition: NaLyssa Smith, Baylor

The junior forward is the best player on the Big 12's top team; her scoring (17.9 PPG) and rebounding (9.8 RPG) averages are in the league's top 10 in both categories. In the logjam of other strong candidates are Iowa State's Ashley Joens and Texas' Charli Collier, two of five Big 12 players averaging at least 20 PPG. -- Voepel

Big West Conference

Front-runner: Kayla Williams, UC Irvine

Williams missed last season with an injury and didn't appear on the preseason all-conference lists. But the redshirt freshman has emerged as the league leader in points (17.2 PPG) and steals (2.9 SPG) for an Anteaters team that is challenging four-time defending regular-season Big West champion UC Davis for league supremacy. -- Creme

Top competition: Sierra Campisano, Cal Poly

The senior forward played her first two collegiate seasons at Oregon before establishing herself as one of the Big West's best players, this year ranking in the top five in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, blocks and minutes. -- Creme

Colonial Athletic Association

Front-runner: Jasmine Dickey, Delaware

After losing four starters from last year's 12-17 team, the Blue Hens have been the surprise leader of the CAA most of the season. The 5-10 junior is the chief reason. Dickey's 22.2 PPG is second in the league and bolstered by 122 free throw attempts and 82.8% accuracy at the foul line. -- Creme

Top competition: Kionna Jeter, Towson

Jeter gets the nod here over Dickey's Delaware teammate, junior forward Ty Battle. Jeter, a senior guard, leads the CAA in scoring and is second in steals and 3-pointers. -- Creme

Conference USA

Front-runner: Anastasia Hayes, Middle Tennessee

The Division I scoring leader (28.2 PPG), the junior guard is shooting 46.7% from the field and is first in the league with 2.8 steals per game. Hayes was the SEC sixth woman of the year for Tennessee in 2018, then C-USA newcomer of the year last season. -- Voepel

Top competition: Nancy Mulkey, Rice

One of the country's tallest players at 6-foot-9, she leads the league field goal percentage (60.7) and blocked shots (3.2 BPG), while averaging 16.3 points and 7.5 rebound. The senior center has been the C-USA defensive player of the year the last two seasons. -- Voepel

Horizon League

Front-runner: Macee Williams, IUPUI

She's favored to win her third consecutive league player of the year honor. The senior center is second in the league in scoring (17.9 PPG) and leads in rebounding (9.3 RPG) and field goal percentage (52.4). -- Voepel

Top competition: Megan Walstad, Milwaukee

The sophomore forward leads the 18-6 Panthers in scoring (12.7 PPG) and rebounding (8.8 RPG) after sitting out last season with a knee injury. -- Voepel


Front-runner: Lou Lopez-Senechal, Fairfield

A crowded race for the MAAC regular-season championship has spilled over into the player of the year chase. Lopez-Senechal, a junior forward, is one of the conference's best shooters and ranks second with 17.0 PPG. -- Creme

Top competition: Mikala Morris, Quinnipiac

The sophomore averages four more points and four more rebounds than she did last year as a freshman and is one of two players in the MAAC averaging a double-double (13.3 PGG, 10.0 RPG). -- Creme


Front-runner: Cece Hooks, Ohio

The league's leading scorer (25.7 PPG), the senior guard is also first in steals (3.1 SPG) and in the top 10 in assists (3.8 APG). She was MAC defensive player of the year last season. -- Voepel

Top competition: Micaela Kelly, Central Michigan

The senior was MAC player of the year last season, and is still in contention. She's third in the league in scoring (23.2 PPG), and in the top 10 in assists (3.8 APG). But Dyaisha Fair might challenge both seniors; the Buffalo sophomore guard ranks second in scoring (24.7 PPG) and first in assists (5.2 APG). -- Voepel


Front-runner: Chanin Scott, North Carolina A&T

A grad transfer from Georgia Tech, Scott isn't the MEAC's best scorer (13.9 PPG), rebounder (8.4 RPG) or shooter (45.6% from the field), but she's the league's most versatile player. Her well-rounded game, which has the guard in the top 10 in six major statistical categories, has helped the Aggies into first place. -- Creme

Top competition: Jayla Thornton, Howard

The Bison pose the biggest threat to North Carolina A&T's postseason aspirations, and that largely due to Thornton's scoring (14.6 PPG) and 3-point shooting (2.6 3-pointers per game). -- Creme

Missouri Valley Conference

Front-runner: Brice Calip, Missouri State

The MVC's defensive player of the year last season, the senior guard is in the top five in the league in scoring (14.4 PPG), assists (4.4) and steals (2.3), and the Lady Bears have been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 much of the season. -- Voepel

Top competition: Lasha Petree, Bradley

The junior is the leading scorer in the MVC (17.7 PPG). The guard was the conference's freshman of the year and sixth player of the year in 2018-19. -- Voepel

Mountain West Conference

Front-runner: Haley Cavinder, Fresno State

Battling twin, Hanna, and last year's MWC player of the year, senior forward Maddi Utti, every day in practice the last two seasons has paid off for Haley. The 5-6 sophomore guard leads the conference in scoring and is top 10 in rebounding, assists, steals, 3-point field goals field goal percentage, free throw percentage and minutes. -- Creme

Top competition: McKenna Hofschild, Colorado State

The Rams have the conference's best winning percentage. Hofschild is their second-leading scorer, best free throw shooter and leads the league in assists. -- Creme

Northeast Conference

Front-runner: Kendall Bresee, Mount St. Mary's

The former George Washington player found a great fit at the Mount; the senior is in the top five in the league in scoring (14.5 PPG), rebounding (9.0 RPG), assists (4.1 APG) and steals (2.3 SPG) for the conference-leading Mountaineers. -- Voepel

Top competition: Karson Swogger, St. Francis (Pa.)

She's having her best season as a senior, ranking in the top three in the league in scoring (15.3 PPG) and assists (4.6 APG). The Red Flash face the Mountaineers on Sunday and Monday, which could decide the league's regular-season winner and player of the year. -- Voepel

Ohio Valley Conference

Front-runner: Chelsea Perry, UT Martin

The 2020 conference player of the year is the heavy favorite to repeat. Perry is scoring (23.8 PPG) at the same clip she did a year ago and averages five points more per game than her closest competition. She ranks in the OVC's top five in rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage for the league-leading Skyhawks. -- Creme

Top competition: Destinee Wells, Belmont

Just a freshman, Wells is averaging 16.4 PPG and 4.4 APG. The guard shoots 46% from the field and 84% from the free throw line. -- Creme

Pac-12 Conference

Front-runner: Aari McDonald, Arizona

Few players can control a game on either end of the court with their speed the way this senior guard can. The shooting is streaky, but she finds a way to score to the tune of 18.8 PPG, good for second in the league. That accompanies her 4.6 APG and Pac-12-leading 2.5 SPG. -- Creme

Top competition: Haley Jones, Stanford

On a team in which balance is the main characteristic of success, Jones still stands out. Her 13.7 PPG are good for ninth in the conference, but her efficiency (55% field goal shooting) helped earn the Cardinal the regular-season conference championship. -- Creme

Patriot League

Front-runner: Jade Edwards, American

The junior guard is averaging a league-leading 18.8 points, and her 8.0 rebounds ranks in the top five in the conference. The Eagles have clinched the top seed in the Patriot League's South Division. -- Voepel

Top competition: Katie Nelson, Boston University

The senior guard leads the way in scoring (12.6 PPG) and assists (4.3 APG) for the Terriers, who finished atop the Patriot League North Division standings. -- Voepel


Front-runner: Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

At 13.6 PPG, the sophomore forward doesn't have the big scoring numbers of some other players in the conference. But the rest of the Gamecocks benefit from the defensive attention she demands. And she's second in the SEC in rebounding (11.6 RPG) and first in blocked shots (3.2 BPG). In a league that's still defense-dominated, that means a lot. -- Voepel

Top competition: Rhyne Howard, Kentucky

With Thursday's 27-point performance, the junior is averaging 19.7 PPG and has helped Kentucky move closer to an SEC tournament first-round bye. There also might be some sentiment for Alabama senior forward Jasmine Walker, a projected WNBA draft first-round pick who is averaging a double-double and could help the Crimson Tide make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1999. And Chelsea Dungee of Arkansas is likely in the mix as well. -- Voepel

Southern Conference

Front-runner: Andrea Cournoyer, Samford

A transfer from Louisiana, the junior guard leads the conference in scoring (18.0 PPG), free throw percentage (86.0) and steals (3.0 SPG). -- Voepel

Top competition: Jaron Dougherty, Mercer

An all-Southern Conference first-team member last year, the junior forward is third in the league in scoring (16.4 PPG) and second in rebounding (9.8 RPG). -- Voepel

Southland Conference

Front-runner: Amber Leggett, Sam Houston State

The Bearkats have spent the season looking up at Stephen F. Austin in the Southland standings, but Leggett has excelled individually. She leads the league in scoring at 19.8 PPG to go along with 6.9 RPG and 2.3 SPG. The junior forward's crowning achievement might have been her 27 points against SFA, one of the best defensive teams in the country. -- Creme

Top competition: Stephanie Visscher, Stephen F. Austin

Visscher anchors that defense. The junior guard from Sweden has 50 steals and 21 blocks on the season to go along with 12.7 PPG and 85.7% free throw shooting. -- Creme

Summit League

Front-runner: Myah Selland, South Dakota State

Selland suffered what is likely a season-ending injury last weekend and will end up missing the final three games of the regular season. But the 6-1 junior has been the centerpiece of the league's best team. She leads the conference in scoring (19.2 PPG), is fifth in rebounds (6.8 RPG) and third (3.8) in assists. -- Creme

Top competition: Hannah Sjerven, South Dakota

Sjerven gets the better of Selland in a few statistical categories, but when the two faced off in the two biggest games in the Summit this season, both wins by the Jackrabbits, Selland scored 17 and 26 points and Sjerven had 10 and 16. -- Creme

Sun Belt Conference

Front-runner: Alexus Dye, Troy

With 17 double-doubles, the senior forward is averaging 15.0 points and 12.3 rebounds. She and teammate Felmas Koranga, who also averages a double-double, have led Troy to the East Division's No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt tournament. -- Voepel

Top competition: Brandi Williams, Louisiana

The West Division-leading Ragin' Cajuns have won 11 in a row, and Williams is coming off a 32-point performance in their last victory. The junior guard is averaging 12.1 PPG. -- Voepel


Front-runner: Dariauna Lewis, Alabama A&M

The Bulldogs are in fourth place, but it's hard to argue against Lewis as the SWAC's best player when the junior forward leads the conference in scoring (17.1 PPG), rebounding (13.8 RPG) and field goal percentage (61.4). -- Creme

Top competition: Ameshya Williams, Jackson State

With Jackson State leading the league, a compelling case could be made for Williams, a 6-4 senior center who is second to Lewis in all of those categories and is fourth in the country in blocked shots per game (3.4). -- Creme


Front-runner: Ane Olaeta, California Baptist

Because the Lancers are still in their probationary period as they transition to Division I, what would be a national-best 8.3 assists per game for Olaeta doesn't make the official NCAA statistics. But her 12.6 PPG and 37.1% 3-point shooting have helped California Baptist to an unbeaten WAC season to this point. -- Creme

Top competition: Josie Williams, Utah Valley

At 6-5, Williams is the WAC's most imposing defensive presence, and her league-leading 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game back that up. -- Creme

West Coast Conference

Front-runner: Jenn Wirth, Gonzaga

When it comes to the Bulldogs, it can be hard to separate the impact of the 6-3 senior forward and senior guard Jill Townsend, who was the 2019-20 conference player of the year. They're averaging almost identical points per game, but Wirth took another step forward this season and ranks second in the WCC in rebounding and first in field goal percentage. -- Creme

Top competition: Shaylee Gonzales, BYU

A knee injury cost Gonzales the 2019-20 season, but she came back healthy and even better as a redshirt sophomore. Gonzaga's only conference loss came against the Cougars in a game in which Gonzales had 16 points and seven assists. -- Creme