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The 2021 women’s Final Four is set, and, heading into Friday night’s games (No. 1 UConn vs. No. 3 Arizona; No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 1 South Carolina) in San Antonio, we’re power ranking the quartet based on how they’re playing right now and who they’ve beat in the tournament.
1. UConn: The Huskies weren’t the overall No. 1 seed, but they are playing like they were. They had to go through the toughest No. 2 seed, Baylor, just to get to the Elite Eight, and they’ve won games both with Paige Bueckers’s playing a huge role and with the freshman’s teammates’ taking the starring role instead. Per Her Hoop Stats, UConn has the nation’s No. 3 offense and No. 1 defense, and it’s one of the hardest teams to stop inside the arc in the country. It’s hard to argue it wouldn’t be favored, at least slightly, against any of the three remaining teams.
2. Stanford: The Cardinal got pushed by Louisville before roaring back with a dominant run on Tuesday night. This team is elite on both ends, and its balanced offense, featuring four players averaging double figures, makes it incredibly hard to stop. Stanford shoots 38.3% from three (third nationally) and 51.7% from two (15th nationally), and hasn’t lost since back-to-back defeats in January.
3. South Carolina: The Gamecocks put on a defensive clinic against Texas, controlling the boards and shutting down likely No. 1 WNBA draft pick Charli Collier. It was a tough night offensively for All-America Aliyah Boston, and yet South Carolina still won by 28, which shows how difficult it is to defeat. If there’s one team that’s going to break up a UConn-Stanford title game, Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are your best bet.
4. Arizona: The Wildcats are playing in the program’s first Final Four, which is a huge accomplishment. They have a senior star in Aari McDonald, who is so consistent she’s scored double figures in an astounding 91 straight games. Arizona plays a pressure defense that forces a turnover 22.5% of the time and is particularly strong on the interior, holding opponents to 39.3% shooting from two. Still, the Wildcats face an uphill climb here as the only non–No. 1 seed left standing.
Justices ripped the NCAA system in the governing body’s first Supreme Court hearing in 37 years, but legal experts caution against assuming it gives away the case’s outcome. (By Ross Dellenger)
NCAA president Mark Emmert apologized for the unequal accommodations at the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments.
Men’s Final Four preview: How Houston got here and what it has to do to reach the national title game. (By Kevin Sweeney)
Best Thing We Saw
The entire U.S. women’s national soccer team was at Tuesday’s women’s Elite Eight games … in true COVID-19 season cutout form.
Pick ‘Em: Women’s Final Four
No. 1 UConn over No. 3 Arizona: The Huskies are hungry to break their title “drought” and just went through the wringer with Baylor. They’ll play freer in this one.
No. 1 South Carolina over No. 1 Stanford: The Cardinal will be tough to beat, but the Gamecocks’ defense will be up to the task.
Zia Cooke will steal the show in South Carolina-Stanford, with the Gamecocks’ sophomore guard leading all scorers on the floor.
At the Buzzer
The potential national championship outcomes for the women’s Final Four differ widely. If UConn (last title: 2016) or South Carolina (last title: 2017) win it all, we’ll have a champ that previously won it in the past five years. Stanford, meanwhile, might be a perennially-strong program, but the Cardinal haven’t cut the nets since 1992, nearly 30 years ago. And Arizona? If the Wildcats win it, it’ll be the first women’s basketball national title in school history.