Half of the women’s NCAA Tournament Final Four field is set. The other half will be settled Monday night.
Who will join Iowa and LSU in Dallas?
The second set of Elite Eight games tips off with No. 1 South Carolina — the defending national champions — playing No. 2 Maryland (7 p.m. ET on ESPN). The Gamecocks are aiming to be the first repeat women’s basketball champion since Connecticut won four straight national titles from 2013-16. Maryland last reached the Final Four in 2015, and boast a national championship of their own in 2006.
Then, No. 1 Virginia Tech will play No. 3 Ohio State (9 p.m. ET on ESPN). The Hokies have never reached the Final Four. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, last made the Final Four in 1993.
Follow along for updates on all the action from Monday’s Elite Eight matchups:
Follow the madness: Latest Women’s NCAA Tournament College Basketball Scores and Schedules
South Carolina senior guard Brea Beal has an additional season of COVID-19 eligibility available but said she doesn’t plan to use it and will declare for the 2023 WNBA draft.
“School is not for me, I’ll tell you that, so I definitely have (made a decision),” Beal said with a laugh. “So much of my career I feel like a lot of things went unnoticed, so to be able to close out my senior year, to see a lot of people putting me in mocks or just talking about me, it shows that I’m beginning to get noticed and how valuable I can be.”
Beal has never been a headliner for the No. 1 Gamecocks, but she has anchored the starting lineup from the moment she set foot on campus. Last year, she earned All-American honorable mention honors for the first time in her career from the Associated Press and was named a finalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year alongside her teammate Aliyah Boston, the reigning winner of the award.
ESPN and The Athletic currently project Beal as the No. 7 overall pick in the WNBA draft on April 10.
— Emily Adams, Greenville (South Carolina) News
On the morning of the 2023 SEC championship game, the first thing South Carolina women’s basketball point guard Kierra Fletcher did was text her girlfriend Kayana Traylor good luck.
At nearly the same time as Gamecocks tipped off against Tennessee on March 5, Traylor and Virginia Tech women’s basketball were hoisting the ACC championship trophy. Fletcher and South Carolina went on to win the SEC title hours later.
“It was crazy, because right after we played I checked the score and I was like, ‘Wow, they won,'” Fletcher said. “I called her as soon as I got time, and we were just talking about how crazy it was that both of us won the conference tournament together.”
Traylor, a 5-foot-9 senior guard for the Hokies, first connected with the Gamecocks’ starting point guard on social media. They bonded over being from the Midwest — Fletcher is from Michigan and Traylor from Indiana — and have now been together for nearly three years.
Now, South Carolina and Virginia Tech are the only 1-seeds left. If Virginia Tech beats Ohio State and the Gamecocks take down Maryland, Fletcher and Traylor will head to Dallas with a legitimate chance to face each other for the national championship.
— Emily Adams, Greenville (South Carolina) News
It didn’t take a miracle for Ohio State to advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993. The Buckeyes, in a 73-61 win over Connecticut on Saturday, simply outplayed the Huskies for the majority of the game.
“As long as we play our game,” Ohio State senior forward Eboni Walker said, “we have the utmost confidence in ourselves and in each other.”
For Ohio State, playing its game goes hand-in-hand with its full-court press. When the Buckeyes get their press set and start forcing turnover after turnover after turnover, as they did against the Huskies, they can be almost impossible to stop.
Now, No. 1 seed Virginia Tech will have to grapple with Ohio State’s press just as UConn did. During the Hokies’ Sweet 16 win over Tennessee, the Lady Vols used their own press to come back from an 18-point deficit early in the third quarter to get within one point.
Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks knows Ohio State will employ the full-court press Monday night and says his team will have to play smart but aggressive offense.
“We have to get downhill, break the pressure, and get some easy opportunities, and I think that that will kind of ease it up a little bit,” Brooks said. “But they have been doing it all year long. They’re really good at it.”
— Bailey Johnson, The Columbus Dispatch
Kim Mulkey is already calling South Carolina in the Final Four.
The defending national champions don’t play their Elite Eight game against second-seeded Maryland until Monday night, but Mulkey doesn’t need to wait around for that. The top-seeded Gamecocks will be in Dallas next weekend, LSU’s coach said Sunday night.
“South Carolina is going. I’m just telling you that, flat out,” she said after LSU clinched its own spot in the Final Four with a 54-42 win over Miami. “That’s nothing against who they play. I just know how good they are.”
South Carolina thumped LSU by 24 points, 88-64, in their one meeting in the regular season. If Mulkey’s team sees the Gamecocks again, a national title would be on the line.
“I’d sure love to be in that championship with them,” Mulkey said.
— Nancy Armour
To get an idea of just how intoxicating Caitlin Clark’s game is, all you had to do Sunday — if you weren’t near a TV to watch her pile up 41 points, hand out 12 assists and grab 10 rebounds — was scroll Twitter.
In the second half as her Hawkeyes pulled away from Louisville and everyone in Climate Pledge Arena went on triple-double watch, Clark became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter. And as Clark led No. 2 seed Iowa to its first Final Four since 1993, it became clear: the junior guard is the superstar women’s basketball needs, right when the game needs it.
On Saturday, women’s basketball bid an early goodbye to UConn, the program that had made an NCAA-record 14 consecutive Final Fours but will be watching from home this April. On Sunday, it said hello to Clark, the most electrifying player in college basketball, men’s or women’s. Her passes in transition causes gasps, her tendency to pull up from the logo makes opponents shake their heads.
She’s a transcendent talent, a player of the year candidate who elevates everyone around her and loves the big stage. Sunday when Iowa built as much as a 22-point lead she played to the crowd, motioning to fans to cheer louder, cupping her ear to see if they complied. Asked afterward what it’s like to have an entire arena wrapped around your finger, Clark leaned into the mic and admitted sheepishly, “I feel kinda powerful.”
— Lindsay Schnell