March Madness: South Carolina favored going into Final Four
March Madness is down to the Women’s Final Four. Defending champion South Carolina remains on track to repeat and completing the 10th undefeated season in the women’s game after its 86-75 win over Maryland. Virginia Tech became the second top seed to make it to Dallas with its 84-74 victory over Ohio State to round out the regional finals. With the Hokies advancing, it is the seventh time in the last 10 years there will be a first-time participant in the Final Four. LSU and Iowa won on Sunday to break long droughts. Here is what to know:
GAMES TO WATCH
No. 3 LSU (33-2) vs. No. 1 Virginia Tech (31-4), Friday, 7 p.m. EDT, ESPN
LSU has completed its rapid rise with Kim Mulkey, reaching the Final Four in its second season under the former Baylor coach. The Tigers are in the Final Four for the first time in 15 years after beating Miami 54-42. The Hokies have won 15 straight games and are in the Final Four for the first time in school history. Elizabeth Kitley scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Georgia Amoore added 24 points in their win over the Buckeyes.
No. 1 South Carolina (36-0) vs No. 2 Iowa (30-6), Friday, 9:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN
It will be a matchup of the top two players as All-Americans Aliyah Boston and Caitlin Clark will face off in the second national semifinal. The Gamecocks have won 42 straight games and are in the their third straight Women’s Final Four after an 11-point victory over Maryland. Boston is averaging 12.0 and 11.0 rebounds during the tournament. Clark and the Hawkeyes are back for the first time in 30 years after a 97-83 victory over Louisville Sunday night. Clark had the 11th triple-double of her career and the 19th in NCAA Tournament history with 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds against the Cardinals.
The top four seeds in the tournament were given to South Carolina, Indiana, Stanford and Virginia Tech. Stanford was the first to bow out on March 26, and Indiana was ousted a day later by Miami.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The women’s tournament field was filled with stars, including Boston, last season’s AP player of the year. She will have plenty of competition for the honor this year, including Clark, LSU’s Angel Reese and more.
Charisma Osborne scored a career-high 36 points to help UCLA rally after blowing an 18-point lead against Oklahoma to reach the Sweet 16. Alissa Pili had a career-high 33 points, eight rebounds and a career-high eight assists to lead Utah over Gardner-Webb.
Then there is Reese, who has 89 points and 67 rebounds for LSU through four wins.
Gun violence has cost lives and disrupted college sports all season, touching some of the top programs in college basketball. Coaches have been thrust into uncertain and unwelcome roles in trying to navigate the topic — as well as the fallout from the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
On a lighter note, if you think you know the women’s tournament, try this 25-question quiz. And do you think that juggernaut teams are good for the game?
Want to hear from the athletes themselves? UCLA freshman Kiki Rice and injured UConn star Paige Bueckers have each written diaries for The AP about their “tourney journeys.”
HOW TO WATCH
The title game will be on a national network — ABC — for the first time since 1996. ABC’s plan was to air at least a half-dozen other games, too.
Beside that, every game of the women’s tournament will be available on ESPN’s networks or streaming, with fans encouraged to navigate to the “Watch” tab on ESPN’s sites. There are multiple sites listing game times, channels and other details, including the NCAA site.
Who’s going to win the national championship?
Heading into the Final Four, the betting favorites (in order): South Carolina, LSU, Iowa and Virginia Tech, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
With Indiana, Stanford and UConn gone, the Gamecocks are an even bigger favorite to become the first repeat champion in the women’s tournament since UConn won the last of four straight in 2016.
Where is the women’s Final Four? In Dallas, where the semifinals are Friday and the championship game is Sunday. As it happens, the men’s Final Four is a four-hour drive down the road in Houston that same weekend.