It’s not the matchup we anticipated, nevertheless it has a lot history-making intrigue.
Pushed by final season’s second-round upset, the Hawkeyes superior to this system’s first Last 4 since 1993 behind a core group that has began greater than 90 video games collectively. Their cohesion is amplified by the singular offensive brilliance of Caitlin Clark, who will shoot for a third-straight 40-plus-point sport within the nationwide championship. It additionally wouldn’t be stunning if Clark threatened Sheryl Swoopes’ file 47-point efficiency in a nationwide title sport or surpassed Swoopes’ all-time mark of 177 whole factors scored in an NCAA Match, each of which have been achieved in 1993, the identical 12 months the Hawkeyes final reached the Last 4 stage.
LSU introduces another mannequin of excellence. In her second season in Baton Rouge, Kim Mulkey has microwaved a championship contender, expertly navigating the fashionable tradition of school basketball to mould a roster that includes 9 new gamers, highlighted by switch Angel Reese, into a possible title winner. Within the nationwide championship sport, Reese can have the chance to earn her thirty fourth double-double of the season — she already has the brand new NCAA file. A win for the Girl Tigers would give Mulkey 4 nationwide championships, a complete that will path solely Geno Auriemma (11) and Pat Summitt (eight). She would additionally stay an ideal 4-0 in nationwide title video games.
So, what occurs on Sunday? Which crew will ship a historic first nationwide championship for its program?
On each ends of the ground, anticipate Lisa Bluder to implement advantageous schemes for her Hawkeyes, optimizing Clark’s skills on offense whereas compensating for Iowa’s weaknesses on protection. Mulkey, in distinction, will demand that her Girl Tigers do what they do — overwhelm within the paint and on the boards — however simply do it higher and more durable.
Right here’s what else would possibly occur when the Hawkeyes and Girl Tigers face off on Sunday afternoon:
What would possibly occur when Iowa is on offense and LSU is on protection?
The Hawkeyes current opponents with unenviable choices.
Do you pressure the ball out of Clark’s fingers? Nicely, that strategy dangers permitting Clark to slice and cube defenses together with her passing, leading to open avenues to the basket for Monika Czinano or establishing Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall or McKenna Warnock for 3-pointers. Moreover, protecting the ball away from Clark’s clutches is simpler stated than completed, as she careens across the half courtroom when off the ball. Alternatively, merely letting Clark get hers and shutting down everybody else appears ill-advised. After which, there’s the two-woman sport between Clark and Czinano that has confirmed unstoppable. Iowa additionally feasts in transition, with Clark pinging her teammates with lengthy passes after misses and makes.
South Carolina opted to stay to Iowa’s 3-point shooters, a method that Clark exploited in isolation, rushing previous perimeter defenders to the basket, or through choose and rolls with Czinano, drawing the eye of Czinano’s defender earlier than hitting her teammate on the roll.
Whereas LSU doesn’t have the elite defensive depth of South Carolina, their success equally derives from a mixture of power, size and smarts, with perimeter aggression anchored by the flexibility of Reese. The Girl Tigers’ response to the tape of the Iowa-South Carolina showdown will likely be attention-grabbing. Will Mulkey deploy measurement or velocity on Clark? Will LSU threat abandoning Iowa’s shooters to offer extra assistance on Clark’s drives? How will Reese’s positioning be tweaked and toggled?
What would possibly occur when LSU is on offense and Iowa is on protection?
Iowa packed the paint in opposition to South Carolina, surrounding Aliyah Boston and daring the Gamecocks to beat them with soar photographs. The wager, whereas it regarded shaky at some factors, paid off.
At Saturday’s press conference, Bluder urged Iowa would scheme up another technique in opposition to LSU, which, whereas additionally thriving off dominant inside scoring, has extra succesful outdoors shooters. If the Hawkeyes do assist off the Girl Tigers, they intend to make them pay. On Saturday, Alexis Morris, echoed by a number of teammates, known as Iowa’s strategy “disrespectful.”
Based mostly on her play all through the event, it appears unwise to doubt Morris, the Texas native who’s writing a narrative of redemption as a fearless shot taker and maker. LaDazhia Williams additionally has stepped up offensively throughout LSU’s tourney run, whereas Flau’jae Johnson has the potential to introduce some off-the-bounce juice for the Girl Tigers within the half courtroom.
Even when LSU’s soar photographs don’t fall, the Girl Tigers can have the chance to seize the benefit from the Hawkeyes on the glass. On Friday evening, Iowa was, as anticipated, dominated on the boards, virtually doubled up. But, they survived. However can they achieve this a second-straight time? Reese arguably is the nation’s greatest rebounder, able to repeatedly cashing in on second-chance factors.
South Carolina bent Iowa’s protection, however couldn’t break it. If LSU could cause the Iowa protection to crack, how will the Hawkeyes reply?