Tonight’s games will determine the two teams that will face-off for the Women’s Basketball Championship on Sunday night. In the first game two number one teams, Sanford and South Carolina wil start at 6 PM ET. The second games will be with first time Final Four team #3 Arizona against #1 UConn.
The No. 1 seeds Stanford and South Carolina will repeat their Final Four meeting of 2017 in Friday’s first game, with the Cardinal hoping for a different result and the Gamecocks aiming toward a second title in the past five years.
Then the No. 1 seed Connecticut, a fixture in the Final Four, will square off with the No. 3 seed Arizona, whose star, Aari McDonald, will try to surprise the Huskies, the owners of a record 11 national titles, and the new face of their program, Paige Bueckers. [..]
UConn’s Bueckers was voted the Associated Press Player of the Year, and Arizona’s McDonald is the Pac-12 Player of the Year. This game will challenge them to take over and will also test the supporting players on each team. Connecticut’s starters, most of whom have at least some previous tournament experience, will have an advantage in that regard. [..]
McDonald has played her best basketball of the season during the tournament, carrying the Wildcats past tough teams. She scored more than 30 points in each of her past two tournament games while averaging nearly 60 percent shooting. She is fast and a skillful ballhandler with a craftiness that helps her find ways to score from anywhere on the court, around almost anyone assigned to defend her.
Bueckers has not exhibited newcomer jitters — she was the first freshman to win the top player award — as she played her signature smooth, somewhat unassuming game from the start of the tournament. Her preternatural court vision allows her to set up the other shooters on her team, including Christyn Williams and Evina Westbrook. They might be the ones with the gaudy stat lines on Friday night, if Arizona decides to focus its defense on shutting down Bueckers. [..]
South Carolina and Stanford have talented young post players with very different skill sets. Aliyah Boston, the Gamecocks’ 6-foot-5 sophomore, is listed as a forward but plays more like a traditional center, dominant around the basket and on the glass, with the size and strength — as well as the deft footwork — to overpower opponents. The fact that she averages a double-double is almost a footnote to the ways in which she broadly shapes South Carolina’s game. [..]
Stanford’s Cameron Brink, a 6-foot-4 freshman, doesn’t have the same ability to muscle her fellow post players, but she can score quickly in transition and — occasionally — shoot from behind the arc. Brink has already helped the Cardinal with her volleyball-trained vertical leap, which allows her to block and rebound with ease. She is not yet dominant enough to attract double teams in the way that Boston tends to, but her range on the floor allows her to spread defenses and open up lanes for the Cardinal’s smaller guards, like senior Kiana Williams. [..]
The Cardinal looked as if they might be upset through much of their round-of-8 matchup against the No. 2 seed Louisville, and they betrayed one of the few weaknesses in an offense with a lot of powerful scorers.
Stanford needs to hit 3-point shots to win.
The Cardinal hit one 3-pointer in the first half against Louisville, and went into halftime down by 12 points. Stanford hit six in the second half — still low, compared with the 14 3-pointers per game it averaged in the first three games of the tournament, but enough to push through to the next level.
South Carolina doesn’t shoot much from behind the 3-point line, but it does defend well against long-distance shots, allowing opponents to hit just 27 percent of their 3s.
The challenge with Stanford is that most of its players can hit a 3 when needed. But if South Carolina can force those shooters to the rim, where they will be greeted by Boston and her prodigious blocking skills, the Gamecocks will have a very real chance of quieting one of the most prolific offenses in the tournament so far.
Here are the winners and losers of yesterday’s Elite Eight:
|2||Baylor||25 – 2||67||1||UConn*||24 – 1||69||River Walk|
|4||Indiana||16 -10||53||3||Arizona*||16 – 5||66||Mercado|
|5||Louisville||23 – 3||63||1||Stanford*||25 – 2||70||Alamo|
|8||Texas||18 – 9||34||1||S. Carolina*||22 – 4||62||Hemisfair|
These are the four teams playing in the Final Four. I’ll post the scores as the games conclude.
|6:00||ESPN||1||S. Carolina||22 – 4||Hemisfair||65||1||Stanford*||25 – 2||68||Alamo|
|9:57||ESPN||3||Arizona*||16 – 5||Mercado||69||1||UConn||24 – 1||59||River Walk|
TMC for ek hornbeck