March Madness betting picks: Women's Final Four preview
Shane McNichol previews the Woman's NCAA Tournament Final Four as South Carolina take on Louisville and UConn face Stanford.
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While the men’s NCAA Tournament has received a lot of buzz leading up to the Final Four in New Orleans, the women’s NCAA Tournament has featured some remarkable games and Cinderella stories of its own.
Last week’s Elite Eight showdown in which UConn snuck past top seed NC State in double overtime was perhaps the game of the month across either tournament.
This weekend’s Final Four in Minneapolis promises more of the same, with many of the sport’s biggest names on hand to create plenty of drama.
Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are a heavy favorite here, even against a fellow top seed. It’s easy to see why. South Carolina has lost just twice all season, losing those games by a combined three total points.
Just one of the Gamecocks’ NCAA Tournament opponents has managed to stay within double digits, and Elite Eight victim Creighton lost by 30.
Louisville is no slouch, well worth the top seed awarded by the committee, yet it’s tough to see them keeping this game within striking distance.
The Cardinals and Gamecocks played seven common opponents this year. In Louisville’s eight games against those teams, the Cardinals went 5-3, outscoring those opponents by an average of 4.9 points per game. In eight games against those same teams, South Carolina went 7-1, winning by an average of 11.6 points.
Aaliyah Boston is simply too much for teams to handle in the post. Her 28-point, 22-rebound performance against North Carolina was one of the best games we’ve seen played to date in the tournament. She’s poised to lead the Gamecocks to a national title.
Geno Auriemma has his Huskies in the Final Four for a mind-boggling fourteenth consecutive season. For context, compare that to the consistency – or lack thereof – on the men’s side, where no men’s team has even made two Final Fours in a row since North Carolina in 2016 and 2017.
UConn is, however, lucky to have survived the Elite Eight to advance this far. The Huskies needed double overtime, playing in their home state, to knock off top-seeded NC State.
Don’t let that narrow escape fool you. The Huskies are still primed to make a run at the title this weekend. Paige Bueckers is back in the lineup after missing over two months of action. The Huskies lost just once all season with her on the court, a defeat at the hands of mighty South Carolina.
When UConn plays their best, Stanford shouldn’t be able to match them player for player. Note that if you’re betting futures, the Huskies are +280 and the Cardinals are +320 to cut down the nets this weekend.
Happily take UConn to win this semifinal game, with a 1.5-point spread as some extra help.
Does that mean we should be eyeing another UConn championship run? Not so fast. South Carolina is still very much the team to beat, and easily dispatched the Huskies early in the season. Bueckers was healthy in that game, but couldn’t do enough to spark the UConn offense as a suffocating Gamecock defense held them to only 57 points, including three in the game’s final quarter.
Boston had 22 points and 15 rebounds in that game, proving too much even for UConn. If they meet again, I’d expect to see the same.
South Carolina is being offered at just -125 to win, for good reason. The Gamecocks are the best team in Minneapolis this weekend and are the pick to win their second championship in six years.