Teams will battle it out to earn the title of national champion when the LSU Tigers and Iowa Hawkeyes meet in the NCAA Tournament Championship on Sunday.
Despite this matchup being chosen in few March Madness predictions, both teams are making their national championship debuts behind strong performances from key players to down No. 1 seeded teams in the Final Four.
With LSU and Iowa each taking care of the final two No. 1 seeds in the tournament, Sunday’s national championship matchup will mark the first since 2011 that doesn’t feature a top seed, when No. 2 Texas A&M defeated No. 2 Notre Dame for the title.
LSU had a run at the national title game from 2004-2008, however was never able to get over the hump of the semifinals, while Iowa reached the Final Four this season for the first time since 1993.
The Tigers, in their second season under head coach Kim Mulkey, were finally able to do what they couldn’t in those previous seasons and defeated No. 1 Virginia Tech 79-72 to reach the title game.
Though Mulkey has plenty of experience in the postseason, winning the national championship with her former team Baylor three times, LSU has gotten to this point on a pair of transfers, one who had previously spent time playing for Mulkey.
The Tigers had a bevy of new players and transfers to the team this season, and Angel Reese, who transferred this past offseason from Maryland, is at the top of that list.
Reese leads the team with 23.3 points and 15.6 boards a game, and was key in LSU’s Final Four win, with 14 of her 24 points and 10 of her 12 rebounds coming in the second half to help erase a 12-point second-half deficit.
Angel Reese is the first player to record 100 PTS, 70 REB, 10 BLK, and 10 STL in a single NCAA Tournament 🤯
(via @ESPNStatsInfo) pic.twitter.com/T76bqkAxjV
— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) April 1, 2023
Alexis Morris has also been big for LSU this season after joining the team at the same time as Mulkey, who she previously played for at Baylor. Morris is the Tigers’ second-leading scorer averaging 15.2 points a game and led the Tigers with 27 points against Virginia Tech.
Though Reese and Morris are big for LSU, no one is more crucial to their team’s success than Caitlin Clark is to Iowa, who was central to the Hawkeyes snapping South Carolina’s 42-game winning streak a day after being named the Naismith National Player of the Year.
Clark is second in the nation averaging 27.7 points while she leads the league with 8.6 assists, and against the Gamecocks, she became the first women’s player to record back-to-back 40-point performances in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 41 points and sending out eight assists after recording 41 points en route to a triple-double the game prior.
The basketball world is still buzzing from Caitlin Clark’s performance last night.
Over Iowa’s last two wins, Clark has 82 points and 20 assists.
It’s the only instance of a player averaging 40 PPG and 10 APG in any 2-game span in women’s or men’s NCAA Tournament history. pic.twitter.com/dBKbpfsCTB
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 1, 2023
Just like the two games prior, this matchup should bring the entertainment in a must-watch contest, with NCAA basketball lines having Iowa as a three-point favorite. March Madness expert picks are predicting Clark to be unstoppable again, but be sure to get your own March Madness picks in before the game starts at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday.