Clash of the all-time greats: NCAA women’s basketball

Graphic Courtesy of Paige Albright.

By Paige Albright

Boston University News Service

As the last teams standing in the NCAA tournaments for men’s and women’s basketball have dwindled down to the Final Four, each team has a remarkable postseason story to tell. Last night, the women’s Elite Eight match-ups brought in record-breaking viewership, due to the high-profile stars lining up for some of their final games as collegiate athletes. 

Last year, the Women’s NCAA championship game shattered the previous records for viewership on the women’s side. Last night, we saw a rematch between the runner-up and champions. LSU took on the University of Iowa in a highly publicized game as tensions ran high last year and turned the championship game into a viral affair. Many were excited to see what the match-up would bring.

The Hawkeyes set the tone for the game early on, clearly seeking to avenge their loss to the Tigers last year. Iowa, though the higher rank in the match-up, was still perceived as the underdog, as the Tigers won last year rather decisively. Winning 94-87, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, the record-breaking senior guard for the Hawks, had an impressive game even for her astronomical standards with 41 points, 12 rebounds and a new record for the number of threes in a collegiate career. Iowa would end up outshooting LSU 46.5% to 38.6%, and, with star player Angel Reese fouling out, the Tigers could not respond to the all-around shooters on the Iowa roster. 

The second game of the night in Albany was between USC and UConn, with both teams showing off their star-studded rosters. Juju Watkins, the unbelievable freshman from USC, faced off against veteran coach Geno Auriemma and his Huskies. Star Paige Bueckers of UConn stole the show, keeping the Huskies dancing with an 80-73 win. Bueckers came back this season from an ACL injury that kept her sidelined last year. After she and the Huskies eliminated No. 1 seed USC, Bueckers said, “just seeing where I was a year ago today… today is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever felt in my life.” 

The high-foul game was full of role changes, as teammates had to step up as others either entered foul trouble or fouled out. Bueckers stepped up to the post as teammates Nika Muhl and KK Arnold each racked up four fouls. Bueckers helped UConn return to the team’s 23rd final four and her second.

The tickets for entrance to the Albany regional games hovered around $200, and viewership for this year’s women’s tournament has averaged around one million viewers per game. The “Caitlin Clark effect” is more than evident this year, as the attention and hype around the women’s tournament seems to have grown to new heights.

UConn and Iowa will face off at 7 P.M. EST in Cleveland on Friday night, and the winner will be heading to the national championship game to take on either NC State or South Carolina. Watch the game on ESPN.

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