Quinnipiac forward Jen Fay enjoyed her team’s NCAA Tournament breakthrough so much that she wants to deliver a repeat performance.
Fay played a vital role in Quinnipiac’s improbable drive to the Sweet 16 last year as a No. 12 seed. The 6-foot junior returns to the NCAAs this year as Quinnipiac (27-5) faces Miami (21-10) on Saturday at Storrs, Connecticut, in a rematch of a 2017 second-round game.
”We’re always kind of seen as the underdog, but I think this year it’s more of a mentality that this obviously is feasible,” Fay said. ”We did it last year.”
Fay is one of several noteworthy women’s players from one-bid leagues savoring the opportunity to face more programs from big-name conferences this week.
Quinnipiac showed last year what a mid-major or low-major program can accomplish in this event.
Fay scored 20 points in a first-round upset of Marquette . Quinnipiac also produced a second-round stunner over Miami before falling in the regional semifinals to eventual national champion South Carolina .
Fay followed up that postseason performance by averaging 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds this season to earn first-team all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference honors along with teammate Aryn McClure.
Now she wants to have another big tournament. Plenty of other mid-major and low-major programs want to follow the example Quinnipiac set last year.
”I always say this to any of my friends being recruited – it’s not really about the name of the school,” Fay said. ”I feel a lot of people get caught up in that. If they’ve never heard of it or if it’s not a Big 12 or SEC-type school, they automatically think because they’re going to a lower conference, that they’re not as good.
”But that’s definitely not the truth, and I think that’s what we’re proving here, showing all the other mid-major schools this is possible. You’re going to have to work really hard because a lot of times those BCS-type schools have a lot of major players, more athletic players. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take them down.”
Here’s a rundown of some other notable players from one-bid leagues who could emerge as NCAA Tournament impact performers.
BELLA ALARIE (forward, Princeton)
Next game: Friday vs. Maryland in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Notable: The 6-4 sophomore was the Ivy League player of the year and had 34 rebounds over two games in the league tournament last weekend. She gained valuable experience playing for USA Basketball over the summer and will be a matchup nightmare for the Terrapins.
JILL BARTA (forward, Gonzaga)
Next game: Saturday at Stanford.
Notable: Barta has earned first-team all-West Coast Conference honors three times and was named the league’s player of the year this season. The 6-3 junior is averaging 18.8 points and 8.4 rebounds. She scored 32 points as Gonzaga beat San Diego in the WCC championship game .
TASHIA BROWN (forward, Western Kentucky)
Next game: Friday vs. Oregon State at Knoxville, Tennessee.
Notable: This 6-1 senior is a two-time first-team all-Conference USA performer who was named the league’s player of the year this season. She averages 22.7 points to rank sixth among all Division I women’s players . She scored 30 points in a victory over Missouri and 25 in a loss to Notre Dame .
SHAY BURNETT (guard, Elon)
Next game: Friday at North Carolina State.
Notable: Burnett, a 5-9 senior, has earned first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association honors each of the last three seasons. This stat-sheet stuffer averages 13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists to lead Elon in all three categories.
CHANNON FLUKER, (center, Cal State Northridge)
Next game: Friday at Notre Dame.
Notable: This 6-4 junior is a two-time Big West most valuable player. Fluker ranks seventh in Division I in rebounding (12.1 per game) and 19th in blocks (2.58). Fluker also averages 18.8 points. She had 24 points, 17 rebounds and six assists as Cal State Northridge upset top-seeded UC Davis 63-55 in the Big West championship game .
SHAKYLA HILL (guard, Grambling)
Next game: Friday at Baylor.
Notable: Hill became the fourth Division I women’s player ever to post a quadruple-double when she had 15 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals in a Jan. 3 victory over Alabama State. The 5-7 junior averages 17.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 4.9 steals. She ranks second in Division I in steals .
KAHLIA LAWRENCE (guard, Mercer)
Next game: Saturday at Georgia.
Notable: Lawrence is the first three-time Southern Conference player of the year. The 5-8 senior has averaged 19.2 points and 5.1 rebounds while helping Mercer win 27 consecutive games. She averaged 25 points per game in the Southern Conference Tournament, including 29 in the championship game .
JESSICA LINDSTROM (guard/forward, Green Bay)
Next game: Friday vs. Minnesota at Eugene, Oregon.
Notable: Lindstrom averages 15.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. The 6-1 senior has 41 career double-doubles. She scored 17 points in a win over Arizona State, 15 points in a victory over Marquette and 14 in a loss to Mississippi State this season.
DARBY MAGGARD (guard, Belmont)
Next game: Saturday vs. Duke in Athens, Georgia.
Notable: Maggard sank a tying 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds left in regulation to help Belmont win the Ohio Valley Conference championship 63-56 over Tennessee-Martin. The 5-5 junior averages 16.7 points and 5.3 assists for the Bruins, who have 22 straight wins.
MACY MILLER (guard, South Dakota State)
Next game: Friday vs. Villanova in South Bend, Indiana.
Notable: Miller is the Summit League’s player of the year. The 6-foot junior averages 18.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. She is shooting 46.2 percent from 3-point range and scored 16 points in a victory over North Carolina State.
ALEXIS MONTGOMERY (guard/forward, Seattle)
Next game: Friday at Oregon.
Notable: Montgomery ranks first in the Western Athletic Conference in rebounding (10.0) and second in scoring (18.9). The 5-foot-10 fifth-year senior has posted two triple-doubles this season while helping Seattle earn its first NCAA berth .
Follow Steve Megargee at https://twitter.com/stevemegargee