Alexis Peterson knows how much her life has changed in the past year.

Twelve months ago, she and the Syracuse University women's basketball team began a journey that would take them to the NCAA championship game.

Her team lost 82-51 as Connecticut won its fourth consecutive national title last April, but Peterson's star has continued to shine brightly this season.

One of 15 players on the Wooden Award national ballot and the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, the 5-foot-7 senior guard and 2013 Northland High School graduate can't wait to begin her final NCAA tournament.

"I'm ready to dance again," Peterson said.

Peterson, who is a finalist for both the Nancy Lieberman Award (NCAA's top point guard) and the Dawn Staley Award (most outstanding college guard), is averaging 23.3 points, 7.1 assists and 3.0 steals for the Orange and has scored a program-record 721 points this season.

She ranks second on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,928 points and is first in program history with 578 assists.

Peterson and Washington's Kelsey Plum are the only two players in the country with at least 1,900 career points and 500 assists.

Set to graduate in May, Peterson has hopes of a career in the WNBA.

"We're having a solid season," Peterson said of Syracuse, which is 21-10 overall and went 11-5 in the ACC. "It was a rebuilding year for us, but we've overcome some adversity. I think we're in a good position heading into the tournament.

"It's been different this year in terms of me being a more vocal leader. Last year was a great experience, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a college athlete. We gained a lot of experience being on the biggest stage."

Peterson is one of three women from central Ohio who play for teams that were ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 as of March 6, along with Kentucky's Alyssa Rice and Ohio State's Alexa Hart. Ohio State was ranked 11th, Kentucky 19th and Syracuse 21st.

While Peterson was the ThisWeek Super 12 captain in both 2012 and 2013, Rice earned that honor in 2014 as a senior for Reynoldsburg.

A starter in 28 of 31 games this season, Rice, a 6-3 center, is averaging 4.2 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Wildcats, who are 21-10 overall and went 11-5 in the Southeastern Conference to tie for third.

"I'm excited for where we are," Rice said. "We're still getting better each and every game. We're at a point where we're playing together. I'm excited about playing in March.

"It's been a great experience being at Kentucky. The support we have here is amazing. I'm definitely very happy with my decision to come here."

Hart, a 6-3 junior forward and 2014 Africentric graduate, is averaging 4.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks mostly off the bench for Buckeyes, who are 26-6 overall and won the Big Ten regular-season title at 15-1.

*WVU'S MACON BACK IN TOURNEY -- The West Virginia men's team is now 3-for-3 in NCAA tournament berths since Elijah Macon joined the program.

Macon, a 6-9 junior forward who attended Marion-Franklin for three years before spending his final prep season at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, was averaging 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds and shooting 57.4 percent from the floor through 33 games this season for the Mountaineers.

He helped WVU reach the Sweet Sixteen in 2015.

"We're getting better," Macon said. "We're stronger and a little deeper than we were last year.

"Last year I didn't start, but this year I'm starting most of the time. I'm taking on that role of being that older guy."

Macon plans to graduate in May with a degree in landscape architecture but has one year of athletic eligibility remaining.

*B1G MEN -- Among the Big Ten men's teams with central Ohio players on their rosters that will be competing in the postseason are Wisconsin and Michigan State.

Delaware graduate Khalil Iverson, a 6-5 guard/forward, was averaging 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds coming off the bench through 32 games for Wisconsin, which tied for second in the Big Ten.

"We're having a pretty solid season, but at the same time, we feel as if we can improve in a few areas," Iverson said. "I'm just trying to go in and do what I can and contribute. I'm like the energy guy."

Gahanna graduate Nick Ward, a 6-8 forward, has made a big impact at Michigan State as a freshman. Through 32 games, he was averaging 13.7 points and 6.4 rebounds to rank second in both categories for the Spartans.

*MAC POWER -- The Ohio University men's and women's teams are set to begin their postseasons after getting contributions from central Ohio players.

The men's team, which tied for second in the Mid-American Conference-East Division, has a pair of area players among its leaders in Newark's Jordan Dartis and Johnstown's Jason Carter.

Dartis, a 6-3 guard, is averaging 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and a team-high 1.3 steals and Carter, a 6-8 forward, is averaging 9.9 points and 6.5 rebounds.

Pickerington Central's Rodney Culver, Dublin Scioto's Antonio Bisutti, Northland's Doug Taylor and North Union's Drew Crabtree are others from central Ohio playing for the Bobcats.

Led by Gahanna graduate Quiera Lampkins, the women's team also was runner-up in the MAC-East.

Lampkins, a 5-9 guard, is averaging a team-high 19.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and a team-high 2.2 steals for the Bobcats, who also feature former central Ohio standout guards Taylor Agler (7.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.9 steals) of Olentangy Orange, Amani Burke (7.5 points) of Eastmoor Academy and Yamonie Jenkins (8.2 points, 3.3 assists) of Reynoldsburg.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek