The 2022 Women’s Finals might look a bit familiar: Three of the four teams in Minneapolis also made it to the weekend finals a year ago. Also familiar: Three of the four teams were the tournament’s No 1 seed for the fifth consecutive year. Stanford Cardinal is the defending champion. The South Carolina Gamecocks are the No. 1 rope-to-string team in the country from 2021-22. UConn Huskies are having their 14th consecutive Finals. And the Louisville Cardinals, who were not present in San Antonio last March, are on their fourth trip to the national semi-finals.
All four teams brought in stars: Aliyah Boston of South Carolina; Haley Jones and Cameron Brink from Stanford; Paige Bueckers of UConn; and Hailey Van Lith of Louisville. But it was their defense that got them all here. Her Hoops Stats rates all four of the six best defensive teams in the country. Score will be high. First one to 65 wins, then?
Here’s how all four teams plan to lift the championship trophy Sunday night at Goal Center. The four Women’s Finals will kick off Friday on ESPN starting at 7 p.m. ET.
Reasons to rejoice: After 14 games this season, Van Lith is the 25.0% 3-pointer who has more passes than assists. Now she’s the first Louisville player to have four straight 20-point games in the NCAA. Van Lith’s enthusiasm and excitement over the Cardinals’ success is one of the tournament’s stories. More importantly, her scoring is bringing the blame on her team.
Reasons for concern: Emily Engstler is the Swiss army knife of college basketball. Her ability to lead the press, steal (six games against Michigan), block (1.8 BPG this season) and bounce at a double-digit clip (11.0 RPG in the league) is remarkable. idea. She is the second-ranked individual defensive player in the country, according to Her Hoops Stats. But in two of Louisville’s past three games, Engstler’s shooting has been lousy. Combining four of the 22 games against Gonzaga and Michigan helped keep both teams in the Cardinals games longer than they should have.
The Cardinals will win if… They can find some consistent offense beyond Van Lith. Coach Jeff Walz knew his defense would work, so he said that if his team could get 70 points, he would feel good. Louisville has only reached that number twice in the tournament so far, one of those instances being against Albany. Doing that against South Carolina in the national semifinals seemed inevitable, but if Engstler or Kianna Smith can have a good night of shooting, upset is within reach.
Monica McNutt and JJ Redick share who they think will cut the net in Minneapolis.
Reasons to rejoice: This is an intimidatingly good defensive team. South Carolina leads the nation in opponents’ goal-to-field ratio, effective-field-scoring rate, and points-per-play. After tying up all those missed shots, the Gamecocks are the nation’s best defensively as well as the best at ensuring no second chances for the other team. Their first two opponents in the tournament – Howard and Miami – combined only scored 54 points, and the Gamecocks were far ahead by an average of 41.3 points in four games. Coach Dawn Staley has said publicly throughout the tournament that her offensive behavior doesn’t affect the weight but her defense will go anywhere and remain superb. She’s in the right place.
Reasons for concern: Take a shot. Their defense is so good, if the Gamecocks don’t make at least some jumpers, they’ll be vulnerable. The 3-point ratio of 30.8% is even worse in the NCAA tournament (26.1%). Destanni Henderson finally found her stroke in Elite Eight against Creighton; if she took it to Minneapolis, South Carolina could get her nets cut.
Gamecocks will win if… Boston is exposed. South Carolina’s plan worked better when her teammates got the ball to the Boston post – just like they did with Creighton. In the game against North Carolina, she made her way to the offensive tables on her own, for a performance of 28 points, 22 recoveries (12 of which were offensive). There is a lot of scoring talent that exists on this South Carolina team, but none of them are reliable when it comes to returning to the SEC tournament.
Three players scored twice as much for Stanford in a 59-50 win over Texas.
Reasons to rejoice: Cardinal had a chance to defend their title with two of the three best players in the Final Four: Jones and Brink. Jones is a 6-foot-1 point guard who is equal between a dazzling pass and a fierce counter-attacker. Brink is a strong 6 foot 5 player with soft hands, quick feet and fierce blocking instincts. They are unicorns of college basketball, gifted in the most unique ways.
Reasons for concern: As good as they are and as impressive as their 23-game winning streak in reaching the Finals, Cardinal has lullabies, sometimes quite loud. Their offense looks underwhelming at the start of the regional finals against Texas. Their fourth game before that, against Maryland, was that a coach Tara VanDerveer said she couldn’t even discuss in the media. Whether it’s revenue issues that aren’t fully resolved (20 games against Texas and 18 games against Maryland), penalty box shooting (23.6% over 3 pointers in the Spokane Area) or trouble Brink’s foul play, Stanford remains vulnerable to any of these too much to outrank its elite Minneapolis competitor.
Cardinal will win if… The ball moves when fouled. Keep an eye out for Stanford’s rate of assists. When the cuts in the back door were flashing and the ball was changing sides of the field quickly, Cardinal’s offense was instantly lethal and a wonderful one. However, they have moments when they too easily tackle in 3 seconds or are forced into one-on-one drives. They won’t win the national title that way.
Reasons to rejoice: The 14th round of finals in a row is a good start. Considering that eight players have missed at least two games this season due to injury or illness – something that has led coach Geno Auriemma to use 11 different starting lineups – this run could be more satisfying than that. with the previous 13 games. player of the year in the Bridgeport area final against NC State with 27 points – 15 of which came in extra time – for the first time since her knee injury in December was another reason to optimistic that UConn can win its first national championship since 2016.
Reasons for concern: Dorka Juhasz suffered a significant wrist injury in the first half against Wolfpack. Without her, Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa are the only two major characters Auriemma has on hand. Playing against NC State’s Elissa Cunane, Edwards fouled and Nelson-Ododa played in the 4th half and overtime with four fouls, a condition that clearly subtracted from Nelson-Ododa’s defensive assertiveness. Stanford’s front line is even bigger. Edwards and Nelson-Ododa both had to be on the floor for the Huskies to compete inside.
Huskies will win if… Azzi Fudd continues to be involved in this. Auriemma clearly trusts her first-year guardian. Fudd played 49 minutes against NC State. She also penetrates, passes and shoots with the same confidence she has throughout the season. This UConn team has no room for the mistake some of their classic teams make, so the Bueckers and Christyn Williams will need to be just as good, or better, to beat Cardinal for a spot in the finals. nation.
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