The transfer portal, conference realignment and the extra seasons granted to players by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic have completely changed the women's college basketball landscape. The conference player of the year races, especially in smaller leagues and mid-majors, are one of the areas most impacted. In some leagues, the reigning winner is back for a fifth or even sixth season. And in some conferences, the strongest challenger might be a once highly rated recruit who is now settling into her third school far from the spotlight of a Power 5.
The national player of the year chase looks like it should break down much like last season, with front-runner Aliyah Boston of the South Carolina Gamecocks and Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes closely matched, but a distance ahead of the rest of the pack.
Predicting each conference player of the year is far more difficult. Let this serve as a guide to all of the personnel changes across college basketball and who might emerge as the best of the best in each league for the 2022-23 season.
Navigate to each league:
American | America East | ACC | Atlantic Sun | A-10 | Big 12 | Big East | Big Sky | Big South | Big Ten | Big West | CAA | C-USA | Horizon | Ivy | MAAC | MAC | MEAC | MVC | MW | NEC | OVC | Pac-12 | Patriot | SEC | SoCon | Southland | SWAC | Summit | Sun Belt | WCC | WAC
American Athletic Conference
The native of Greece was the AAC's Freshman of the Year and was first-team all-conference her sophomore and junior seasons. This should be the next step in a conference the Bulls are heavily favored to win. Tsineke was third in the AAC in scoring (14.3 PPG) as a junior and was the league's best free throw shooter (83.7%).
Her 14 double-doubles led the conference and helped get the Mustangs to the postseason (WNIT first round) for the first time since 2017.
As league leader in scoring (16.0 PPG) and steals (2.8 SPG), it's not surprising that Simon was the America East Player and Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. It's even less surprising she is the favorite for both awards again. Heading into her fourth season, Simon has already led the Black Bears to 35 total wins, two regular-season championships and one tournament title.
One of the conference's best rebounders and the Most Outstanding Player of the America East tournament, Cooper could be ready for a breakout in her junior season.
Losing to FGCU in the first round of the NCAA tournament was not how Kitley wanted to end one of the best seasons in Virginia Tech history, but her 42-point performance was the perfect indicator for just how dominant the center can be. A year ago, Kitley finished second in the ACC in scoring (18.1 PPG), rebounding (9.8 RPG) and blocked shots (2.4 BPG), and was first with a 55.1 field goal percentage. Those numbers made her the conference's player of the year, and if she wins again this season, she will be the third straight repeat winner in the ACC following Louisville's Asia Durr (2018, 2019) and Dana Evans (2020, 2021).
Considered by many to be the best distributor in the sport, Miles, with improved 3-point shooting, could join Kitley as an All-American.
Kierstan Bell, the winner of this honor the past two years, is now in the WNBA, so FGCU is now officially Morehouse's team. The fifth-year senior led the conference in assists last season (4.7 APG) and is the top returning scorer (14.7 PPG).
The super-senior was first-team all-conference a season ago and finished third in the country with a 66.3 field goal percentage.
As if averaging a double-double (17.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG) and winning the A-10 Player of the Year wasn't enough, Breen, who is now a sixth-year senior, scored 31 points against Notre Dame in UMass's first NCAA tournament game since 1998.
The conference's best scorer over the past two seasons, DeWolfe has already won this award once (2021) and is a two-time first-team all-A-10 selection.
Her 27.9 points per game in Big East games last season shattered a 30-year-old record and won her conference player of the year. Siegrist's 25.3 PPG overall was good for second in the country, and she was also second in the conference with 9.9 rebounds per game.
One year into her career, Morrow (21.9 PPG, 13.8 RPG) already owns 13 Big East records, including every major rebounding mark. She led the country in rebounding and all freshmen in scoring on her way to national freshman of the year honors.
A juco transfer, Natabou was the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year after leading the league in rebounding (10.9 RPG) and field goal percentage (64.3%), while scoring 14.7 points per game.
A first-team all-Big Sky selection and the co-Defensive Player of the Year, White was second in the conference in scoring (15.6 PPG) and first in steals (2.5 SPG).
With incremental improvement over her four-year career, Williams (16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG) is hoping to use her super-senior season to break through as the player of the year and get Gardner-Webb to the NCAA tournament for just the second time (2011).
Two 30-point games last season show just how dominant Young (15.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG) can be.
About the only thing Joens hasn't done in her career with the Cyclones is win Big 12 Player of Year. She's the program's all-time leading scorer and has averaged more than 20 points and nine rebounds each of the past three seasons (20.9 PPG, 9.5 RPG in 2022). Joens' decision to return for a fifth year is the primary reason the Cyclones are the Big 12 preseason favorite for the first time since 2000-01.
After leading the Longhorns to a Big 12 tournament championship and the Elite Eight as a freshman, Harmon (11.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.0 APG) looks like a budding star.
Caitlin Clark, 6-0, G, Iowa Hawkeyes
The most dynamic offensive player in the country will also likely be the most discussed. Her unlimited shooting range often gets more attention than the fact that she was the first Division I player to lead the country in scoring (27.0 PPG) and assists (8.0 APG) in the same season. Clark, still just a junior, will be near the top of every national player of the year award list.
As unheralded as she is effective, Sheldon (19.7 PPG, 4.2 APG, 1.9 SPG) might be the best two-way guard in a conference full of backcourt talent.
Among the Big West's best players since she arrived in Santa Barbara in 2019, this might be the season Lane gets all the way to the top. She led the nation in rebounding her freshman season (2019-20) with 13.0 RPG. That number was down to 9.7 last season, but it still led the conference, as did her field goal percentage (58.0%) and double-doubles (12).
Last year's Big West Freshman of the Year at Cal State Fullerton moved west to help Hawaii defend its conference title.
Colonial Athletic Association
A program mainstay who has gotten better every season, Washington was second in the CAA at 19.2 points per game and helped the Dragons to the best winning percentage in school history (28-6), the regular-season title and a third-round WNIT appearance. With the ball expected to be in Washington's hands even more this season, she could be among the top scorers in the country.
The league leader in assists and the Cougars' top scorer a year ago, super-senior Annecchiarico is trying to help Charleston build on its best season since 2014.
After posting career highs in scoring (18.9 PPG), rebounding (4.4 RPG), assists (2.7 APG) and field goal percentage (42.7%), Walker decided to return for a fifth year to try to get the Bulldogs to their first conference title of any kind since winning the WAC in 2011.
Twice named all-Conference USA at Marshall before transferring to Middle Tennessee for her senior season, Wheeler led the league in scoring a year ago (20.2 PPG).
As a freshman, Leo was the league's sixth player of the year. Last season she led the Horizon in scoring (18.7 PPG), 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 3-point field goal percentage (39.2%).
Walstad has led the team in scoring in each of the three seasons she has played at Milwaukee, but her chances to challenge Leo for Horizon Player of the Year might hinge on the Panthers improving on last year's sixth-place finish.
Somewhat overshadowed by last year's winner, Abby Meyers, Cunningham should be ready to absorb the role as the Tigers' leader. The senior averaged 13.4 PPG and 5.4 APG and scored in double figures all but five games. With that kind of consistency and an improved field goal percentage (38.7%), Cunningham would go a long way toward helping Princeton to a third consecutive undefeated Ivy League season.
Already a two-time first-time all-Ivy selection, the senior is coming off a season in which she led the league in scoring and minutes played and ranked third in assists.
Her 18.7 points per game were good for second in the MAAC, but it's the two 30-point games Davis had in March that built momentum heading into this season.
The 2021 MAAC Player of the Year, DeWees finished in the top 10 in the conference in scoring (13.8 PPG), rebounding (7.3 RPG), assists (3.1 APG), field goal percentage (44.4%) and steals (3.3 SPG) last season.
A three-year starter and a first-team all-conference selection a year ago, Lockett (17.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.8 APG) was the best player on the MAC's best team last season -- and should be again.
Davis (16.6 PPG, 12.0 RPG) set the school record for rebounds in a season, and her 24 double-doubles ranked fourth in the country.
After beginning her career at Clemson in 2016 with a stop at Butler in between, Alexander landed at Coppin State, where she won MEAC Player of the Year a season ago. She led the league in scoring at 15.0 points per game and pulled down 7.1 rebounds per contest.
Also well-traveled, Downs (13.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.5 SPG), playing at her fourth school in four years, won MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and was fifth in the country in steals.
Missouri Valley Conference
According to Her Hoop Stats, Young (20.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG) was the 13th-highest-rated offensive player in the country last season. Her 1.33 points per scoring attempt and 60.3 effective field goal percentage helped. Now she brings that efficiency from the OVC to the MVC.
Belmont is also making that move from the OVC and is the early favorite to win the MVC. Wells (16.7 PPG, 4.5 APG), who was the OVC tournament MVP as both a freshman and a sophomore, is the chief reason.
Mountain West Conference
The centerpiece of the first UNLV team to reach the NCAA tournament since 1994, Young (15.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG) won player of the year honors one season after winning the MWC Freshman of the Year.
Once a top-100 recruit, Brown had an injury-riddled three seasons at Florida State but returns to her home state to finish her career.
Thybulle (10.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.1 APG) leads four starters back for the Seahawks, who are trying to make the postseason for the first time in program history.
As the lone underclassman to be selected all-NEC last season, Wilson (12.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG) was a big part of the Knights winning just their second NEC regular-season title.
Ohio Valley Conference
Already a three-time all-OVC selection, Washington (15.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 47.3 FG%) is the league's top returning scorer and is hoping to help Eastern Illinois to the postseason for the first time since 2013.
With the Trojans changing conferences, Kourouma brings her 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds from the Sun Belt to the OVC for her junior season.
Able to play point guard and power forward, sometimes on the same possession, Jones has a versatility that is unmatched. Her 3.7 assists per game led the Cardinal, and her 13.2 points and 7.9 rebounds each ranked second on the team. That was enough for Pac-12 coaches to make Jones their player of the year in 2022.
Top competition: Cameron Brink, 6-4, F, Stanford Cardinal
The media went with Brink (13.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.6 BPG) for player of the year, and she was also named defensive player of the year. Expect Jones and Brink to battle for postseason honors again with Stanford as the runaway choice to win the conference title for the third consecutive year.
Johnson (15.7 PPG, 3.4 APG) is the foundation for the best team the Terriers have had since joining the Patriot League 10 years ago. She was first-team all-league last season, when she led the team in points, assists and steals.
The Mountain Hawks are expected to be BU's chief competition in the Patriot League. If they are, Kramer (16.2 PPG, 41.3% shooting on 3-pointers) will lead the way.
Aliyah Boston, 6-4, F, South Carolina Gamecocks
The numbers (16.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 54.2 FG%) are great, of course, but it's Boston's value to team success that made her the national player of the year. According to Her Hoop Stats, she led the country in win shares by a large margin and was the nation's most valuable player.
Expect a small adjustment period for Reese (17.7 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 49.9 FG%) as she moves from Maryland to the SEC, but she'll be leading the way if the Tigers are going to challenge South Carolina and Tennessee.
The winner in 2021, Cournoyer would like to grab the trophy again in her senior season. Her production (16.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.5 APG) dropped off slightly last season, but she still earned first-team all-conference honors.
The winner of the past two most outstanding player awards in the SoCon tournament, Neal-Tysor also averaged 16.5 points per game last season and shot 38.5% from beyond the arc.
The Southland's Defensive Player of the Year last season as a junior, Westbrook averaged a double-double (13.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG) and led the league in rebounding. As a sophomore, Westbrook was also the team leader in points, rebounds and assists.
Top competition: Makinna Serrata, 6-0, G, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders
Westbrook might have to hold off her teammate. Serrata finished second in the conference in scoring (14.5 PPG) and led the league in field goal percentage (50.2%).
The winner of the Summit's Player of the Year in 2021, Selland (14.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.3 APG) was slowed a bit last season by a lingering knee injury. By season's end, she rounded into form (see: her 24-point, nine-rebound performance against UCLA in the WNIT semifinals). A healthy Selland is the best player in the conference.
The Summit League's leading scorer at 21.1 PPG, Borowicz does just about everything else well too (5.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 95.7 free throw percentage), but she will have to be even better for her Fighting Hawks to challenge Selland's Jackrabbits for league supremacy.
Sun Belt Conference
The senior from Kenya led the conference in rebounding last season (10.9 RPG) and also set the program's single-season Division I record with 354 total rebounds. Koranga helped the Trojans win their second regular-season conference title in three years, averaging 12.6 PPG. Her 17 double-doubles were good for 18th in the country.
After averaging 16.8 PPG and 8.9 RPG in conference play, Ward won the first-ever Sun Belt Sixth Player of the Year award.
After beginning her career in the SEC with stops at Tennessee and Texas A&M, Green (16.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.2 SPG) took root with the Golden Lions and delivered impressive numbers, including a pair of triple-doubles.
With Ameshya Williams-Holliday no longer around, Crump (9.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG) should have more scoring opportunities for the SWAC favorite.
As UTA moves from the Sun Belt to the WAC, the Lady Mavs bring one of the best mid-major conference players with them. Jacobs (21.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 2.3 SPG) was the only player in the country to average at least 21 points, 1.5 assists and two steals while shooting better than 50% from the field.
A steady producer over her entire career, the fifth-year senior finished in the top 10 in the WAC in scoring (13.9 PPG), rebounding (6.5 RPG), field goal percentage (54.1%) and blocks (1.1 BPG).
West Coast Conference
After scoring in double figures for three straight years at Utah, Maxwell (10.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG) is now in Spokane. She was largely a spot-up shooter for the Utes and is a 40.1% shooter from beyond the arc -- but will likely be asked to do more for Gonzaga.
An underrated player even in the WCC, Krimili has averaged 18.8 points per game over her three-year career and led the league in scoring each of the past two seasons.