Familiar Faces in Final Four
Before the first shot of the 2021-22 women’s college basketball season went into the air, the March Madness predictions had South Carolina, 11-time champions Connecticut and defending national champion Stanford as the top three teams, as well as the ones garnering all the first-place votes in the preseason Associated Press poll.
All these months later and the Gamecocks, Huskies and Cardinal are in the Final Four along with Louisville, the No. 6 team in the preseason. There have been some bumps and a few detours along the way, but the Final Four is looking to be one to remember.
The Gamecocks (-165) are the overwhelming favorites in the odds to win the national championship followed by UConn (+225), Stanford (+450) and Louisville (+1400).
The national semifinals are on Friday with Louisville facing South Carolina at 7:00 p.m. ET followed by the UConn-Stanford game. The winners will meet Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET. The March Madness odds list South Carolina as an eight-point favorite while Stanford is favored by a point against Connecticut.
Below is some information on the four teams including the Las Vegas odds as the race to the 2022 national title kicks into high gear in Minneapolis.
South Carolina Living Up to Seed
- Record: 33-2
- Head coach: Dawn Staley, 14th season
- NCAA appearances: 17
- Best finish: 2017 national champions
The Gamecocks are the No. 1 overall seed and could have the nation’s best player in Aliyah Boston, who is averaging 16.8 points and 14.3 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament. She had 28 points and 22 rebounds in the regional semifinals against North Carolina, which was the only time that the Gamecocks were challenged in the March Madness bracket
Aliyah Boston was the SEC Player of the Year and just had 28 points and 22 rebounds to send South Carolina to the Elite Eight.
— Her Hoop Stats (@herhoopstats) March 26, 2022
South Carolina regrouped after being upset in the SEC tournament title game by Kentucky. Boston and Zia Cooke combined for 36 points in that game but the other three starters were a combined 4 of 19 from the field.
One difference since that game is that 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso has had more time to get back into basketball shape after missing some time at the end of the regular season. Destanni Henderson has 25 points in the last two games and she will be asked to continue to produce offensively.
Stanford Eyeing Back-to-Back Titles
- Record: 32-3
- Head coach: Tara VanDerveer, 35th season
- NCAA appearances: 34
- Best finish: National champions in 1990, 1992 and 2021.
The defending national champions return four of the starters from the national championship game and 10 of the 11 players who played in a one-point win over Arizona.
Stanford had to work for wins over Maryland and Texas in the regionals. Lexie Hull is averaging 22 points during the tournament while Cameron Brink is averaging 12.3 points on 56 percent shooting to go with 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game.
Haley Jones, the Most Outstanding Player in the 2021 Final Four, only had 11 points in the first two NCAA Tournament games. As the competition level increased, her production has also skyrocketed with back-to-back double-doubles in the regionals. She averaged 17.5 points, 11 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the wins over Maryland and Texas.
If there is a concern, the offensive production from the rest of the team has been lacking in the tougher games this season. Stanford is the slight favorite to beat UConn according to the college basketball spreads and reach the championship game.
Louisville Chasing Elusive First Title
- Record: 29-4
- Head coach: Jeff Walz, 15th season
- NCAA appearances: 23
- Best finish: NCAA finalist in 2009 and 2013
Sophomore guard Hailey Van Lith has scored at least 20 points in all four NCAA Tournament games and has played all but six minutes in the last three games. Vanderbilt transfer Chelsie Hall picked a good time to match her season high with 15 points in the regional final against Michigan. Kianna Smith has scored in double figures in all four tournament games
Louisville has been outrebounded in the last three games in the tournament and now must deal with the 6-foot-5 Aliyah Boston in the semifinals. The Cardinals have forced 84 turnovers in four March Madness contests and turning over the Gamecocks will be a key on Friday.
Never Count Out 11-time Champion UConn
- Record: 29-5
- Head coach: Geno Auriemma, 37th season
- NCAA appearances: 32
- Best finish: National champions in 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The incredible run of consecutive Final Four appearances reached 14 with a thrilling double-overtime win over top-seeded North Carolina State.
Reigning national player of the year Paige Bueckers has taken some time to regain her dominating form after missing 19 games during the season, but when her team needed her, she was unstoppable in the second half and the two overtimes in the win against NC State. It can’t hurt that the Minnesota native is returning home for the Final Four.
Senior Christyn Williams is averaging 15.3 points per game in the NCAAs despite shooting only 22 percent on 3-pointers. Freshman Azzi Fudd is averaging 16 points over the last three games.
Something to consider for those who bet online: UConn is 11-0 in national championship games but has lost its last four games in the Final Four.
Dealing with Stanford’s size could be a little harder after reserve Dorka Juhasz suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the North Carolina State win.