A look at a few keys for South Carolina and Iowa to win the NCAA women’s championship today on ABC/ESPN

0
503
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark reacts to the crowd before cutting a piece of the net after Iowa defeated LSU in an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Caitlin Clark and Iowa will try to win the school’s first national championship. Standing in the way is undefeated South Carolina.

For South Carolina to win its third national championship and second in three seasons here are a few keys:

INSIDE DOMINANCE

South Carolina has a distinct advantage inside led by 6-foot-7 center Kamilla Cardoso. She had 14 points and 14 rebounds in the semifinal meeting last season. She’s only gotten better. It’s not just Cardoso as the Gamecocks have other talented post players like Ashlyn Watkins and Chloe Kitts.

DEPTH

The Gamecocks routinely have dominated their opponents with outstanding play off the bench. South Carolina reserves are outscoring their opponents by 27.6 points in the postseason and 21.9 on the year. The Gamecocks have seven players averaging more than eight points a game, and in Friday’s win over N.C. State, the reserves had 30 points and 25 rebounds. Iowa got only three points from its reserves in the win over UConn.

“We pick ’em off the bench, and we didn’t miss a beat,” Raven Johnson said. “And that’s what makes us a great team.”

For Iowa to win its first national championship here are a few keys:

CLARK EFFECT

Clark has always seemed to play her best on the brightest stage. She had 41 points, eight assists and six rebounds in the win over South Carolina last year in the Final Four. Her coach has run out of words to describe her brilliance on the court. She’ll need to have one more big game for Iowa to have any hope of capping off her historic career with a national championship. South Carolina has the length and athleticism as well as the depth to make Clark work for her shots.

REBOUNDING

Iowa averages 41.6 rebounds a game, about five less than South Carolina. The Hawkeyes can’t let South Carolina dominate the boards like they did last year when the Gamecocks outrebounded them 49-25. This season they’ve punished opponents with easy putbacks and that would be tough for Iowa to overcome.

“I think going into that game last year, to say we’re going to beat South Carolina on the glass is probably something that’s not going to happen every single time we play them. But you have to be able to manage it the best you can,” Clark said. “And I think we did that versus LSU, and that’s where you get confidence from is just you kind of weather the storms on the glass, you try to come up with big ones when you can.”

___

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-wom