With the WNBA Draft just hours away, it’s time to break down where the experts see some of the Big Ten’s best heading to begin their careers. Alongside Northwestern’s sharpshooter Abi Scheid, a handful of her former Big Ten opponents hope to hear their names called tonight as well.
After Rutgers’ star guard Arella Guirantes announced she would forego the draft to return to Piscataway her senior season, three primary players emerged from the conference. Maryland guard Kaila Charles, Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle and Scheid are the three most-likely candidates to be selected. However, some experts see a few other dark horses emerging from the pack, such as Maryland’s Blair Watson or Purdue’s Ae’Rianna Harris.
Ultimately, the mock drafts are inconsistent in part because of the NCAA tournament cancelation. The borderline players did not have the chance to stake their final claim for why they deserve to be drafted. Some experts guarantee the Big Ten stars will go early in the night while others don’t see them getting picked up at all.
Additionally, none of the eligible candidates are expected to be picked in the first round, so most experts have not given them much focus. In the end, the B1G is one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball, attracts the WNBA’s attention year after year and has a shot at sending some of its stars to the league again tonight.
Here is our breakdown of each prospect and the experts’ expectations:
Abi Scheid, Northwestern (Forward)
Scheid had a breakout senior season. She led the Big Ten in three-point shooting and finished second in the nation, connecting on 47.7 percent of her attempts from behind the arc. In her final season in Evanston, she averaged 11.5 points, 2.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game and led her team in minutes. Her efforts earned her a spot on the All-Big Ten first team and the chance to be drafted tonight.
Kaila Charles, Maryland (Guard)
As one of four Maryland seniors, Charles led the Terps to their third conference championship in four years. As a three-time All-Big Ten first team honoree and two time All-American, she led the team with 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game her senior year. The 12-time Big Ten Player of the Week (!) will go down as one of the greatest scorers in Maryland history and will certainly find herself on a WNBA roster in the coming season.
Kathleen Doyle, Iowa (Guard)
This year’s Big Ten Player of the Year made her mark on the conference and the nation as a senior. As the conference leader in assists, Doyle averaged 18.1 points, 6.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game – adding a team-high 55 steals as well. As one of three seniors on a talented Hawkeye squad, Doyle has received less pre-draft attention than deserved, likely due to the absence of a true postseason, but has a fair shot of hearing her name called tonight.
Blair Watson, Maryland (Guard)
Watson is a wild card. While she spent much of her career in Charles’ shadow, she is a defensive and three-point shooting powerhouse who could succeed on any WNBA roster. In her senior season, she earned All-Big Ten honorable mention and All-Big Ten defensive team honors and averaged 7.8 points per game with a team-high 91 steals on the year. She also shot 32 percent from behind the arc with 55 made triples.
While many experts don’t project Watson to be drafted, Highpost Hoops’ Howard Megdal was adamant that her Tamika Catchings-like play deserves a spot in the league. Additionally, Her Hoops Stats listed Watson as a potential wild card for any team.
What happens tonight, outside of the very first pick in the draft, is largely still up in the air. Everyone expects Sabrina Ionescu to be the first overall pick by the New York Liberty, but the other 35 picks could vary across all predictions.
None of the experts have all four Big Ten prospects in their rankings, with Charles being the only consistent name. The second and third rounds, especially, are largely up for interpretation across multiple platforms.
FanSided’s High Post Hoops listed three of the Big Ten’s top four prospects in its mock draft. First, it projected Charles as the 18th overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the second round. This slot was relatively consistent across the board with a few varying predictions.
Next, they saw Watson going early in the third round as the 28th overall pick to the Indiana Fever. Finally, Scheid was the projected as one of the final picks, going 32nd to the Chicago Sky. Doyle did not make the cut.
The Athletic was the harshest of the group toward the Big Ten, projecting only Charles to be drafted. Like High Post Hoops, they projected Charles to Phoenix as the 18th pick. None of the others were mentioned.
In Her Hoop Stats’ mock draft, they also saw three of the four prospects going pro. This time, Scheid was the odd one out. Rather than ordering each pick, the site categorized players by round instead. They projected Charles as a second-round pick, Doyle as a third-round pick and Watson again as a potential wild card.
DraftSite’s mock draft varies from the rest in that Charles is the lowest pick of the three Big Ten prospects. Doyle is charted with the top spot in the conference, going 18th to Phoenix. Scheid followed close after, projected to be taken toward the end of the second round as the 22nd overall pick by the Los Angeles Sparks. While Watson did not make the list, her Maryland teammate was selected 25th by the Atlanta Dream as the first pick in the third round.
This projection for Charles could potentially be significant because the Dream listed her as one of their top targets for the draft this year on their website.
Finally, SB Nation’s women’s basketball blog Swish Appeal also varied from the majority in their mock draft. It ranked Charles higher than any other site, projecting her as the 13th overall pick by the New York Liberty, where she would most likely be teammates with Ionescu. Additionally, they had Doyle as the 30th pick to the Chicago Sky in the third round.
Finally, Swish Appeal included Purdue’s Ae’Rianna Harris in their mock draft as well, which none of the other blogs had. She is projected to be the 27th pick by Atlanta.
Harris is a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and finished her career with over 25 school records. She ranked second in the conference with three blocks per game and led her team in most stat categories. In her senior season, she averaged 13.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. While Purdue struggled this season, her talent could be valuable to any team at the next level.
Neither Scheid nor Watson earned a spot in Swish Appeal’s mock draft.
The 2020 WNBA Draft will kick off at 6:00 CT Thursday on ESPN. Tune in to see how Scheid and her Big Ten counterparts fair in the league’s first-ever virtual draft.