Gophers' Banham still in the running for top female player

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Minnesota Golden Gophers women's basketball star Rachel Banham has been named one of 30 midseason finalists for the Naismith Women's College Player of the Year award.

According to the Star Tribune, the junior guard really has no chance to win. The reason being that Banham plays for a team that looks like it's on the bubble to reach the NCAA Tournament. Eight of the past 14 winners have played on teams that won the national title. Four others either reached the title game and lost or at least guided their team to the Final Four.

In an interview with KFAN's Paul Allen on Thursday, Banham agreed, saying she probably won't have a chance to win the award unless she's able to lead the Gophers to a deep run in the tourney.

Even sports fans who don't pay a lot of attention to women's basketball have probably heard the names of most of recent winners of the Naismith Trophy: Britney Griner, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Candace Parker and Seimone Augustus. Moore and Augustus are now stars for the Minnesota Lynx.

She led the Gophers with 19 points in a 63-50 win at Wisconsin on Wednesday night – the third consecutive win for Minnesota, which is back in action Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Northwestern.

The Gophers mauled the Wildcats by 35 points in Minneapolis earlier this season.

As an individual, Banham is without question one of the best players in the country. She leads the Big Ten in scoring average (22.1 points per game), 3-pointers made (68) and 3-point shooting percentage (47.3 percent). She's topped 30 points in a game three times this season and scored at least 20 points in 15 games.

As noted by GopherSports.com, Banham has also been named to the Wade Watch and Wooden Top 20 list, and she's also on the Dawn Staley Award Watch list, which recognizes the nation's top guards.

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