The 2022 NCAA Women’s Tournament Final Four is now set with UConn, Stanford, Louisville and South Carolina advancing. And each team can cut down the nets.
If you haven’t been tuning in for the 2022 NCAA Women’s Tournament, you’re missing out. From big-time upsets over the first couple of rounds to some instant-classic games down the stretch, it’s been a wild ride that fully embodies the essence of March Madness.
But now we’ve arrived at the Final Four and, despite the upsets along the way, it’s the top-tier teams in women’s college basketball ready to duke it out for a National Championship as the South Carolina Gamecocks, Stanford Cardinal, Louisville Cardinals and UConn Huskies head to Minneapolis for the final three games of the season to be played.
Given the pedigree and history of these programs — recently, in particular — they all have the goods to cut down the nets in Minnesota. But here’s why each team should be considered a viable pick to win it all this year as we head into the Final Four.
Why each Final Four team can win the NCAA Women’s Tournament
The case for the South Carolina Gamecocks
As the No. 1 overall seed in March Madness, it should come as no surprise that South Carolina is favored to win a title this year as the field has been narrowed to four teams. And the reasons as to why that’s the case are equally as obvious.
It all starts with their star forward, Aliyah Boston. The 6-foot-5 junior has been arguably the best player in the country throughout the season with a dominant stat line of 16.8 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.8 blocks per game while shooting 57.9 percent from the field. She’s an impossible matchup with her blend of size and athleticism and her presence alone can carry the Gamecocks.
But if that’s not enough, this team plays elite defense that can negate any off nights. Perhaps the biggest ace in the hole, though, is head coach Dawn Staley. A proven winner, her guidance from the sidelines is a trump card South Carolina can play every night.
The case for the Stanford Cardinal
Entering the NCAA Tournament as the defending champions always puts a target on your back but that has been no bother to the Cardinal. This team has kept a winning streak rolling since a few days before Christmas and has hardly broken a sweat through their first four games of March Madness. The vast experience of this team has been on full display.
Stanford brought back the majority of the roster that won a title last year, led by Haley Jones and Cameron Brink, a bit of an offense-defense combo in the form of a duo. But what makes the Cardinal so dangerous is the fact that there isn’t just one force guiding the way. The rotation is deep and everyone is capable of contributing at a high level on both ends of the floor. Combine that with having been here before and getting to the mountaintop last year, how can you not like their chances?
The case for the Louisville Cardinals
Many people projected Louisville to be a No. 1 seed that didn’t reach the Final Four after an early ACC Tournament exit but the Cardinals have righted the ship in an extremely noticeable way. They are led, undoubtedly, by sophomore guard Hailey Van Lith, who has put up 20 points in every NCAA Women’s Tournament game to this point. However dangerous Van Lith is, though, it’s the identity of the Cardinals that makes them a threat to cut down the nets.
Louisville has been one of the most overall efficient teams in the country on both ends of the floor all year long. They are masterful in their ability to control the pace of games, which forces opponents to be as efficient as them on offense and disciplined on defense, a tough task for any group of 18-to-22-year-olds in high-pressure situations. If they can continue to dictate games the way they have thus far, their chances are as good as anyone’s to capture a championship.
The case for the UConn Huskies
Back in the Final Four for the 14th straight year, the only shocking part about the UConn Huskies making another deep tournament run is the fact that they did it as a 2-seed. Of course, that’s the case due to the fact that Geno Auriemma’s team was snake-bitten by injuries throughout the season, most notably with star guard Paige Bueckers missing the majority of the regular season.
Bueckers has returned, though, and she’s quickly reached superstar form again. In the thrilling Elite Eight win over NC State, she scored nearly 30 points in the second half and overtimes to lead the way to the victory.
Having the star back on the floor is the catalyst for UConn potentially cutting down the nets again, but this is also a team that is rife with talent everywhere, especially with Azzi Fudd fully coming into her own as a freshman. You could make the argument that Bueckers and Fudd form the most talented duo in the Final Four, which is more than reason enough to think the Huskies can call themselves champs yet again soon enough.
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