Women's Final Four: South Carolina, Stanford, Louisville and UConn remain

The Women’s Final Four is packed with seeds and familiar faces. There are the defending champions, No. 1 seed Stanford; season favorit...


The Women’s Final Four is packed with seeds and familiar faces. There are the defending champions, No. 1 seed Stanford; season favorites and top seed South Carolina; an ascending program with deep runs on his resume but no title (yet) in No. 1 seed Louisville; and a Final Four game, No. 2 seed Connecticut.

Yet this NCAA tournament was hardly predictable. Teams that made it to the domestic semi-finals needed narrow wins to get there, and many more went home much sooner or later than their standings suggested. In other words, there is at been a lot of madness — which the NCAA allowed women’s teams to officially claim for the first time this year with their use of its “March Madness” trademark — though it’s not obvious by looking at the last four teams standing.

“I would have loved to watch that game,” UConn star goaltender Paige Bueckers said, speaking to reporters just after her Huskies won their 14th straight trip to the Final Four with a double-overtime win over 1 seed. North Carolina State on Monday. “It’s one of the best games I’ve ever been in,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.

Their emphatic endorsements come with some baggage. The pressure to produce close games and unlikely winners — hallmarks of what supposedly makes the college basketball playoffs so entertaining — can be particularly intense in the women’s game, which has long been dogged by the misperception that there are not enough talented players for the teams. beyond the top contenders for the title.

As a result, there is an understandable tendency among those working in and around women’s college basketball to cling to every upset and hard-fought game as proof of the game’s continued growth and parity. Yet the women’s tournament always had surprises; in 2016, for example, the second-, fourth-, and seventh-placed teams joined a top-seeded Connecticut in the Final Four (UConn ended up winning to end a season undefeated). This year tied the record for double-digit seeded wins in a tournament.

But the tournament didn’t have to rewrite the history books to be action-packed. UConn’s win over NC State, the contest’s first round of 8 to go to double overtime, has been the game of this year’s competition so far, but many more have rewarded viewers with fight and surprise. .

On opening night, No. 14 seed Texas at Arlington took on a close match with No. 3 seed Iowa State in his third appearance in the pool.

Despite their star power, second-seeded Iowa and Baylor were knocked out in the second round by 10th-seeded teams Creighton and South Dakota, who advanced to the knockout stages.

12-seeded Belmont came 3 points from continuing their underdog run against Tennessee Central, and in the process showed his young team would be a playoff threat for years to come. to come.

The top two teams were also tested in the second weekend of the tournament. It took Aliyah Boston’s best game of the season to lift South Carolina to 5th-place North Carolina, while 2nd-place Texas pushed Stanford to the brink in the Round of 16 with their tireless defense.

“We got into a two possession game in the fourth quarter, and we pushed and won the game,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said Friday. “Of course we don’t want it to be that close, but if it comes close, find a way to dig deep and get a win.”

Compared to Connecticut’s grueling game against North Carolina State, Louisville — the lowest seeded No. 1 — probably had the easiest wins of the weekend, leading Tennessee and Michigan most of the way. throughout their respective matches.

The Cardinals, who face South Carolina on Friday, are the closest Final Four team to a dark horse, as they are the only team that has never won a title. Louisville entered the tournament with just four losses, but the most recent was a nasty upset against Miami in its first game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Since then, however, second-year guard Hailey Van Lith — a threat for tough layups and behind the 3-point line — has scored at least 20 points in every game of the tournament. Her counterpart in the position, Syracuse transfer Emily Engstler, controlled the boards despite being just 6-foot-1 – shorter than most players she battles for the ball with. The team’s defense played very well, but Louisville will have to summon even more energy to match that of the top seed.

South Carolina enters the semifinals after knocking out Creighton with the biggest margin of victory in the Round of 16, 80-50. It was a much-needed confidence boost for the Gamecocks, who hadn’t been able to convert their dominant defense into much offense since their brutal first-round defeat of 16th-seeded Howard.

Destanni Henderson, Brea Beal and Victaria Saxton all scored alongside Boston, allowing the Gamecocks to show some of their depth instead of relying so heavily on National Player of the Year finalist Boston. With a renewed offense, South Carolina is looking for its second title and a chance to avenge its one-point loss to Stanford in last year’s Final Four.

Bueckers, UConn’s resident star, appeared to be back in shape after his leg injury in December in the second half of the Huskies’ grueling Round of 16. She missed just one shot after halftime, scoring 23 of her 27 points in the second half and overtime. The Huskies might need her to play at this level to face Stanford – a tall order given her injury. UConn will also need consistency from its supporting cast, especially Christyn Williams, who had often closed the scoring gap with Bueckers, and 6-foot-5 forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa.

What Stanford has shown through this tournament is that not only are the Cardinal one of the finest and most experienced teams in the country, but they are simply bigger than almost all of their opponents. Stanford has only one starter under 6 feet tall, and that’s Anna Wilson, one of the top defensemen in Division I. If coach Tara VanDerveer chooses to replace Wilson, she has a deep bench of big players who can shoot, allowing Stanford to intimidate even the best teams. As the Cardinal battle to become the first team to repeat as champions since Connecticut, which won four straight from 2013-2016, it’s only fitting that they have to go through the Huskies first – a game that will see two of the most legendary managers in women’s football face off for the first time since 2017.

The window of upsets and underdogs may have narrowed, but the competition in this final stage of the tournament will be fiercer for that.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Women's Final Four: South Carolina, Stanford, Louisville and UConn remain
Women's Final Four: South Carolina, Stanford, Louisville and UConn remain
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