Final Four: What To Expect In Cleveland

WHN | Apr 3, 2024

By Brandolyn Hellams CLEVELAND – Four teams Marched through the Madness that the NCAA Tournament brought, and many of the…

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By Brandolyn Hellams

CLEVELAND – Four teams Marched through the Madness that the NCAA Tournament brought, and many of the games hit record highs in attendance and TV ratings. We saw major upsets, dominant scoring and celebrity sightings. All in the name of women’s basketball. The matches are set. We’ve got number 1 overall seed and undefeated South Carolina vs a resilient number 3 seed NC State team.  On the other side of the bracket we’ve got number 1 seed Iowa whose lead by NCAA leading scorer Caitlin Clark vs number 3 seed UCONN and Paige Bueckers.

Each of these teams represent different conferences, have a different style of play. However, the matchups should be pretty great across the board. Let’s dive into what to expect.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Dawn Staley’s crew is locked in! The Gamecocks are 36-0  and still remain the heavy favorite to win the national title. Perhaps the most scary thing about this team is their depth. On any given night someone different can go off. One thing that has remained constant all year has been their defense. That of course is no surprise as it’s been something that has been a part of the program’s culture since Dawn Staley took the reins. The Gamecocks entered the season at no.6 on the preseason poll, but after a dominant win against Notre Dame in the first game of the season, in Paris no less, they climbed back up to no.1 and haven’t left since. There were a couple games where it may have seemed like the team wouldn’t win, but they always mentioned being coached by Dawn Staley, and seeing her calm keeps them calm. We’ll find out if the Gamecocks will earn a trip to the National Championship game for the 3rd time in 7 years.

NC State Wolfpack

Go Pack Go! The Wolfpack are howlin’ at the right time. A team that came into the preseason poll unranked! Wes Moore and the wolfpack clawed their way back in with no problems. The team has a 31-6 record overall. The ACC is a tough conference, and it proved so with the change in lead spots throughout the season. Guard play for NC State is huge with players like Aziaha James, Saniya Rivers and Zoe Brooks. The Wolfpack fell to the Notre Dame Irish in the ACC tournament, in a game that went down to the wire. They have looked resilient and are able to turn on the offense when needed most. In the third round of “the dance” they went on a 13-2 run in the third quarter to upset Stanford 77-67. They didn’t stop the upsets there, after a historic night for James making 7 3’s against the Texas Longhorns, that win sent the Wolfpack to the Final Four for the first time since 1998.  

Iowa Hawkeyes

Everyone knows the name Caitlin Clark by now, and if you don’t have you been living under a rock? She’s had a season that will go down in record books, and will be talked about for decades. Although for new fans of women’s basketball it may seem like Clark does it all on her own, that’s not the case at all. Caitlin is able to get her teammates involved often. They know when the ball comes down, they need to run the floor hard, because she’s coming with a full court pass for a quick bucket. They also know to keep moving without the ball because she can pass through seams with ease. This season the Hawkeyes didn’t finish no.1 in the conference, however they won the Big 10 conference tournament, and earned a no.1 seed in the national tournament. Not only does this team have the leading scorer in college basketball, but they also have solid defense, and coach of the year nominee Lisa Bluder. The Hawkeyes have a 33-4 record overall, and their goal is to keep their 10 game win streak going until they bring a national title back to Iowa City.

UCONN Huskies

After being riddled with injuries and losing in just the second game of the season, some fans were questioning whether the Huskies would be able to make a deep run this year. They’re here to remind fans that they are a historic program, run by a historic coach in Geno Auriemma. 5 players went down with injuries for UCONN this season, making their bench shorter, and their margin for error smaller. It seems that those issues may have fueled the team to persevere. Paige Beuckers is back full time this season, and each game seems to be even harder to stop.  Beuckers announced that she would use her final year of eligibility and come back for another year in Connecticut. The Huskies are none to have stars, gutsy defense and prolific shooters. With injuries this season, and dominance from dozens of teams, across the country wins didn’t come as easy. Right now they’re sitting at 33-5 overall, and are looking to try and earn the program their 12th national title. 

Final Four schedule

Final Four: Friday, April 5

No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 3 NC State, 7 p.m. ET — ESPN

No. 1 Iowa vs. No. 3 UConn, 30 minutes after conclusion of first game — ESPN

National championship: Sunday, April 7

TBD vs. TBD, 3 p.m. ET — ABC 

Brandolyn Hellams is a journalist and producer in Atlanta, who covers sports and entertainment.

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