Will South Carolina remain undefeated en route to winning a national title? Who survives in the battle between Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers?

If you’ve been following, or have just been on social media, then you’ve been aware of the immense amount of buzz around the women’s march madness tournament.

Household names such as Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Paige Bueckers, JuJu Watkins and more have become everyday buzzwords on social media. All this newfound attention towards the growth in coverage of women’s basketball has seemed to overshadow the fact that there was/ is in fact, a men’s tournament still going on.

Before I delve into the matchups within the Final Four of the women’s tournament, I do want to touch on the significance of this moment.

Monday’s Elite Eight matchups turned into a must-watch, blockbuster double-feature evening which saw record-shattering numbers in viewership. The night started with a rematch of the 2023 National Championship game between Iowa and LSU. It ended with a tight game between Big East Player of the Year Paige Bueckers and rising star JuJu Watkins who was hoping to lead USC fighting for a first Final Four appearance since 1986.

12.3 million viewers tuned in to watch all-time leading scorer Caitlin Clark lead the Hawkeyes to a win over reigning national champions Angel Reese and the Tigers.

The game was the most-watched women’s basketball game ever and saw higher numbers than any men’s basketball tournament game so far, any NBA game this year, and any MLB game last season.

While the progress in attention, media coverage and investment towards women’s sports, especially college basketball, has gained momentum over the last three years in comparison to the past few decades, it makes me wonder if it will continue following Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, and others’ departures to the WNBA.

I would argue, yes. But to continue the momentum, it requires intentionality from the media to continue to seek out stories of teams, athletes, coaches and more. While the Caitlin Clark phenomenon was monumental in the growth of the game, I am excited to see the ways the media follows her into the WNBA and beyond.

But anyway, here’s what you need to know about the Final Four matchups which take place tonight starting at 4 p.m. on ESPN. 


No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 3 NC State | 4 p.m. PST

South Carolina has been dominant, all season long. They enter the semifinal round of the tournament undefeated for the second season in a row. 

The team is led by head coach Dawn Staley who has guided the program to two National Championships and five Final Fours in the last eight tournaments.

Stars like Kamila Cardoso and Oregon transfer Te-Hina PaoPao have willed this team to back-to-back SEC championships.

While the team had a big turnover of players last season after all five starters took off for the WNBA, Staley has done a phenomenal job of rebuilding a team that is just as dominant as last season. Proving just how dominant this team is, the Gamecocks lead the nation in scoring margin with 29.6 points on average over their opponents.

Plus, their bench game is second in the nation averaging 35.4 points per game led by freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley who averages 11.9 points per game. Fulwiley is the team’s second-leading scorer behind Cardoso. Another key is South Carolina’s defensive game, which holds opponents to a field goal percentage of just 36.4%.

The team has just powered through the regular season and both the conference and national tournament so far, however, last year, Clark and the Hawkeyes spoiled the Gamecocks’ fun, knocking them out in the Final Four. Will the Wolfpack have the same luck?

NC State hasn’t been as dominant as South Carolina over the past decade, but they did manage to pick up some big wins over No. 2 Stanford and then No. 1 Texas en route to their first Final Four appearance since 

The team’s junior guard Aziaha James has got hot at the right time. Although she averaged 15.8 points per game during the regular season, she has boosted an average of 24.3 points per game in the tournament. The team earned their spot in the Final Four thanks to her 7-for-9 shooting from the three-point line against the Longhorns.

Candidly, I haven’t had the chance to watch these two teams as much as I have the other side of the bracket, but I have the Gamecocks exiting this game victorious. The team has a chip on its shoulder after a devastating loss in this round last year and will want to finish what last year’s team started.

The Gamecocks have experience on their side and know how to win big games but if James can continue on her hot streak and make some of those big shots like she did against Texas then I could see this being a close one.


No. 1 Iowa vs. No. 2 UConn | 6:30 p.m.

Now, the other side of the bracket.

I’ll be honest, I picked LSU over Caitlin Clark and Iowa in the Elite Eight solely because I underestimated the talent and depth of this team. While Clark has been putting up massive numbers throughout the tournament (to no one’s surprise), it’s actually her passing game that stands out to me.

Last game, she put up 41 points including nine three-pointers, but her 12 assists allowed Kate Martin to put up 21 points and Sydney Affolter to contribute 16 points in Iowa’s win 

Her ability to knock down big shots paired with her incomparable court vision is what makes her such a big threat to any team’s defense. I also thought Hannah Stulke stepped up big in guarding Angel Reese last game which was good practice for a matchup with UConn’s Aliyah Edwards and potentially South Carolina’s dominant post-game if things shake out that way.

Gabbie Marshall has also been a big piece to Iowa’s success this season in terms of her defensive contributions. I would be curious to see her possibly guard UConn’s leading scorer Paige Bueckers or if Caitlin Clark steps up to guard her former Team USA accomplice. 

Now, my evaluation of UConn is rather slim as well. Paige Buckers, as mentioned, is the team’s leading scorer averaging 28 points per game in the tournament, and is expected to put up a fight after missing last year’s NCAA tournament due to a torn ACL. Although she has seemed to fly under the radar as all eyes have been on Clark this season, Bueckers was actually the first to catch the attention of many as she entered college as the top recruit in the Class of 2020 and became the first freshman ever to win AP Player of the Year that season.

One weakness for the Huskies however is their lack of depth due to a bad case of the injury bug this season. While the team is on a successful 13-game win streak, they are only playing with six players and Iowa likes a fast-paced game so this could potentially work against UConn.

While I have learned my lesson in picking against Clark and the Hawkeyes, according to ESPN analytics, the Huskies are the favorite with a 60.5% chance to win. However, Iowa is just a three-point betting favorite over the Huskies so we’ll more than likely get a down-to-the-wire game.

No matter the outcomes of these games, this year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament will go down as one of the most memorable season finales ever. Between the countless records that went down over the past few weeks and the hyper-awareness of the sport itself, I know I’m looking forward to the last few games of the season and to seeing how the sport continues to grow.