In a surprising tournament of upsets, the powerhouses reign supreme in the Final Four. University of Connecticut, University of South Carolina, Stanford University and University of Arizona are all that remain to fight for a national championship.
The women's NCAA Tournament has historically favored its top seeds. Over the past few weeks, however, eight significant upsets have blown up brackets. Three of four No. 6 seeds prevailed over No. 3 seeds in the round of 32, while University of Texas and IU made shocking runs to the Elite Eight.
In the end, experience and talent won out. UConn came into March ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 Poll, followed by Stanford at No. 2. Arizona is the underdog of the Final Four, led by its senior leader Aari McDonald. In her past two games, McDonald scored 33 and 31, nearly half of the Wildcats’ points.
Arizona has never made the Final Four before this season. Its first-ever opponent? The UConn Huskies, 11-time champions with a record 13-straight Final Four appearances.
McDonald will face off against freshman star Paige Bueckers, the next in a long line of Husky WNBA draft prospects. After leading the team in points, assists, steals and 3-point field goal percentage this season, Bueckers dominated the defending champion Baylor University in the Elite Eight, scoring 28 points and leading a 19-0 run after being down 10 in the 3rd quarter. Wednesday morning, Bueckers became the first freshman in women’s NCAA history to win national Player of the Year.
The other side of the bracket hosts two established No. 1 seeds. Stanford fans are hoping its drought of 10 Final Fours without a championship finally ends. Stanford has not won it all since 1992, while South Carolina, a more recent success story, won the tournament in 2017.
While the Gamecocks had the second highest strength of schedule in the nation this regular season, the Cardinals were battle-tested throughout the tournament and dominated. Stanford has played the top competition and won by no less than 11 points, while South Carolina has not played a seed better than a No. 5.
Stanford and UConn come in as the heavy favorites to meet in the championship, and the Huskies are the team to beat yet again. Head coach Geno Auriemma is arguably the greatest coach of all time and primed to return to the podium as champions for the 12th time and first since 2016.