They had to endure tough Elite Eight matchups to get here, but Connecticut and Iowa have reached the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament's Final Four in Cleveland. UConn had to battle the up-and-coming USC Trojans team led by freshman sensation JuJu Watkins, while Iowa had to take on the same LSU Tigers team that routed the Hawkeyes in last year’s championship game. Both teams took care of business, with Connecticut winning 80-73 and Iowa winning 94-87. Another marquee matchup awaits, so let’s take a closer look at a crucial game whose winner will play for the national championship.
Connecticut vs. Iowa Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – March Madness Betting Lines 4/5

Moneyline: Connecticut Huskies +125, Iowa Hawkeyes -150 
Spread: Connecticut +2.5 (-105), Iowa -2.5 (-115) 
Total: Over/Under 162.5 points 

Connecticut vs. Iowa Injury Report

Connecticut is dealing with multiple injuries. Jana El Alfy is out with an Achilles injury, Caroline Ducharme is out with a head/neck injury, Ayanna Patterson is out with a knee injury, Azzi Fudd is out with a knee injury, Aubrey Griffin is out with an ACL injury, and Amari DeBerry is in concussion protocol. Iowa will be missing only one player, since the Hawkeyes’ Molly Davis is out with a knee injury.

Connecticut vs. Iowa Prediction and Picks 

This run to the Final Four has to be one of the more special ones in Connecticut Huskies history. That’s because a trip to the Final Four had seemed entirely improbable with multiple UConn players battling injuries and a very tough tournament draw.

Sure, Connecticut has historically been a fixture in the Final Four, but this is a different era of women’s basketball, and getting there is no longer a slam dunk for the Huskies program. There are now 10 to 15 generational talents in the women’s game, and the level of parity is unprecedented.

One of those generational talents will be playing for the Iowa Hawkeyes on Friday night, and there’s no question that Caitlin Clark will be a handful for head coach Geno Auriemma and his Huskies. However, let’s not forget that there is also a generational talent on Connecticut’s team named Paige Bueckers.

Before Bueckers went down with a torn ACL and missed last season, she was generally considered the best player in women’s college basketball. While many people might have forgotten the past and crowned Clark as the best of the best, Bueckers isn’t one of those people, and she will be eager to remind fans just how talented she is.

This game is loaded with significance because it pits the historically dominant UConn program against the heralded Clark and an Iowa team ready to make some history of its own. In the background, of course, is the battle between Clark and Bueckers, since each woman has a chance to make a case for being the greatest player in college hoops.

Both Bueckers and Clark have been on a mission throughout this NCAA Tournament. Bueckers is averaging 28 points per game, while Clark is averaging 32.2. They will be the headline attractions on Friday night, but victory will certainly come down to which school’s supporting cast performs better.

Dealing with several injuries, the Huskies have been playing with a shortened rotation for months now. The upside of the situation is that all of UConn’s players stay in the flow of the game, and nobody really comes in cold off the bench. Yes, the downside is that it puts the Huskies at a depth disadvantage, but if they can stay out of foul trouble, stamina won’t be an issue because they are used to playing shorthanded.

Successfully defending Clark will be the biggest key for the Huskies on Friday night, but overall defense is going to be crucial for UConn. Once this Iowa team gets going, it will not stop. Through its four NCAA Tournament games to date, Iowa has had to face two strong defensive teams in Holy Cross and West Virginia. While Holy Cross didn’t have the talent to go four quarters with Iowa, West Virginia managed to do it and even held the Hawkeyes to a season-low, six-point quarter in the teams’ second-round matchup.

Connecticut has been stout defensively this season, and despite their injury woes, the Huskies have continued to play great defense during March Madness. Clark is going to get her points, but if UConn can slow down Iowa’s pace and force the Hawkeyes to take uncomfortable shots, then it can easily come out of top. It’s no stretch to imagine that happening, since the Huskies have done this to opponents all season.

Bueckers vs. Clark is the main event, but UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards will enjoy the biggest mismatch in this game, because Iowa has no answer for her defensively. Edwards, forced to wear a mask due to a nose injury, looks like she has adjusted to it now. In the Elite Eight, she battled a tough big in USC’s Rayah Marshall and came away with 24 points and six rebounds. Give me the Huskies in this one, since the rest of the world has been so focused on Clark and Iowa that it has failed to notice a sleeping giant in Connecticut.   

The Pick: Connecticut ML (+125)

I was really expecting the over/under total for this game to be much higher, because I can easily see it going over 170 points. Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark have been red-hot. It seems like a given that each player will score at least 30 points on Friday since neither team will have a consistent means of defending them.

As mentioned above, UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards is going to be a matchup problem for all four quarters, and I see the Huskies taking full advantage of that. Connecticut’s defense, combined with the Huskies’ slower scoring pace of late, is why this total is much lower than one would expect. Over their past eight quarters, the Huskies have scored only 20 or more points twice.

Iowa, on the other hand, has scored at least 20 points in seven of its last eight quarters. The Huskies’ defense will certainly test the Hawkeyes, but Iowa’s offense will force UConn to play at a faster pace -- and that will increase scoring. Give me the over in this one. Be aware that this wager might look a little scary in the first few minutes after the game gets under way, when these two heavyweights feel each other out, However, once they get going, both teams will be hard to stop.

The Pick: Over 162.5 (-110)

Odds are subject to change*

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