The women’s Candy 16 video games had us on the fringe of our seats as we watched a lot of the matchups come down to the remaining buzzer. The match has been nothing wanting must-watch television, and now we’re left with 4 nice groups who all really feel like they enter school basketball’s largest stage with a reputable likelihood to win all of it. Whereas some colleges are used to these late match runs, it’s a model new expertise for others.
Of the 4 groups, UConn is the most skilled program when it comes to deep match runs. That is their thirteenth consecutive yr reaching the Final Four, and so they have completed so 21 occasions in program historical past. Stanford additionally has loads of expertise, with this being their 14th Final Four look. Their final Final Four matchup was in 2017, the place they misplaced to the eventual nationwide champions, South Carolina.
The Gamecocks are a budding program and have seen a variety of success in latest years. In the final six years, they’ve one nationwide championship and three Final Four appearances below legendary head coach Daybreak Staley. On the different hand, Arizona finds itself in the same place as South Carolina was just a few years in the past. They’re making faculty historical past in their Final Four debut below head coach Adia Barnes.
However whereas expertise, lack thereof, and successful custom matter, it’s a clear slate when these groups step on the flooring this Friday. Here’s a take a look at every staff’s key players who will outline the women’s Final Four.
UConn Huskies (No. 1. seed)
Players to watch: Paige Bueckers, Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook
To solely be a freshman, Paige Bueckers has risen to the problem and carried out properly in each recreation this match. Coming off a nail-biting win in opposition to Baylor, Bueckers logged 40 minutes, 28 factors, three rebounds, and three steals. You possibly can learn extra about Bueckers’ excellent freshman marketing campaign right here.
Although Bueckers has rightfully been in the highlight of the Huskies staff all season, breaking a number of data in her first yr, Christyn Williams and Evina Westbrook are two different players to keep watch over throughout the Final Four.
Williams was the 2018 No. 1 recruit in the nation and has performed a giant half in UConn’s success all through the match. Williams performed unconscious in the second spherical of the match, serving to UConn push previous No. 5 Iowa. She ended the recreation with 27 factors, main all scorers.
Evina Westbrook appears to be the anchor of this younger UConn staff. A redshirt junior and a veteran, Westbrook has match expertise as a Tennessee Woman Vol prior to changing into a Husky. UConn is difficult to cease when Westbrook will get cooking. Whereas she is averaging slightly below double figures, 9.7 factors, and 4.6 rebounds, she appears to warmth up when it issues most this postseason.
Throughout the second-round recreation in opposition to Iowa, she logged 17 factors and 9 rebounds to assist the Huskies put the recreation away and transfer on to the subsequent spherical. Although her stats could not present it, Westbrook does a lot of the soiled work for UConn and brings a way of maturity that can not be taught or coached.
Arizona Wildcats (No. 3 seed)
Players to watch: Aari McDonald, Cate Reese, Trinity Baptiste
Arizona is the new child on the block in this Final Four and possibly the match’s largest wild card. Senior and two-time All-American Aari McDonald leads them. McDonald has been nearly unguardable this match.
At 5’6, she’s a speedy level guard in the open courtroom that performs with a variety of coronary heart. Her quickness is one thing most groups battle with, not to point out she is a pest on the defensive finish. She has racked up two Pac-12 Defensive Participant of the 12 months honors for 2020 and 2021.
Towards Indiana in the Elite Eight, McDonald registered 33 of her staff’s 66 factors. Sure, that’s half. She additionally went 5-for-6 from the three-point line. McDonald is the engine that makes Arizona go. Exterior of her contributions to the staff, Cate Reese and Trinity Baptiste will probably be keys to Arizona’s success in the Final Four.
Baptiste is a veteran ahead who’s best for the Wildcats on the boards, averaging 8.5 this postseason. Reese can also be averaging six rebounds. If these two can crash the glass and get into double figures scoring, they not solely lighten the load for McDonald however make defenses play extra truthfully, opening up photographs for his or her different teammates.
South Carolina (No. 1 seed)
Players to watch: Zia Cooke, Aliyah Boston, Laeticia Amihere
South Carolina is coming again to declare the NCAA championship they felt they have been robbed of final yr when the pandemic canceled the NCAA match. Headed into this Final Four, a lot of their players bear in mind what that felt like.
Specifically, sophomore guard Zia Cooke has been a terror in this match. She has averaged 14 factors over the final 4 video games and grabbed a mean of 4.5 boards. In South Carolina’s Elite Eight win in opposition to Texas, she recorded 16 factors and 6 rebounds. Although Cooke is younger, she drives South Carolina’s up-tempo tempo and places her teammates in place to succeed.
So as to add, heart Aliyah Boston is a key to South Carolina’s success as properly. Standing at 6’5, she is a matchup nightmare for a lot of groups along with her physicality in the paint. Boston is averaging a double-double this postseason with 14.7 factors and 10.9 rebounds. Maintaining her on the flooring and out of foul hassle goes to be paramount.
Lastly, Laeticia Amihere and her shot-blocking capacity is a hidden gem for the Gamecocks. Of their win in opposition to Texas, she recorded 9 blocks. If she may also help maintain opponents from changing in the lane, Amihere will assist South Carolina proceed to be a terror on protection. This may drive opponents to accept jumpers and threes and will increase their possibilities of transferring on to the championship recreation later this month.
Stanford Cardinal (No. 1 seed)
Players to watch: Kiana Williams, Cameron Brink
The Cardinals have been led by their entrance courtroom for a lot of this match run, but it surely’s one in every of their smallest players, Kiana Williams, who makes the Cardinal so troublesome to defend. The 5’8 guard is one in every of the finest shooters in the nation, and may knock it down from anyplace on the flooring with prolonged vary.
Williams is a senior from San Antonio, and has come house for her final hurrah. This postseason, she has averaged 16.1 factors per recreation and is taking pictures 46.2 p.c from past the arc on 7.4 makes an attempt. Williams’ capacity to stretch the flooring has helped open issues up for Stanford’s super inside players.
Cameron Brink is one other standout freshman in this yr’s NCAA match for the Cardinal. She led the Pac-12 in blocked photographs, logging 57 throughout the common season, and 21 via this postseason. At 6’4, she is a presence in the paint, however she doesn’t dwell there. Brink has some finesse in her recreation and may knock down a pull-up jumper and threes with ease. Her versatility has created matchup issues for opposing groups all through this run.
With all the expertise headed into this NCAA women’s Final Four, you’ll not need to miss any of those video games. Video games happen on Friday, April 2 and start at 6 p.m. ET, with a battle between two No. 1 seeds, Stanford and South Carolina. From there, No. 3 Arizona and one seed Connecticut take the flooring at 9:30 p.m. ET to safe the remaining sport in the championship recreation.
The women’s match has given us so many superb moments to this point. It appears like the finest is but to come in the Final Four.