All eyes will be on the Alamodome as the NCAA Women's Basketball Division I Tournament continues in San Antonio, Texas. This year, the Final Four is not short on talent, storylines and excitement. In one corner, there is Geno Auriemma entering his 13th straight Final Four as he takes on Adia Barnes, who is entering her first Final Four. On the opposite end, there is a national championship-caliber showdown between South Carolina and Stanford. Although there are only three games left in the 2020-2021 season, there is so much to sort through. Starting here, take a look at four players you should get to know before you sit down to watch this weekend's games.
Coming out of the Elite Eight, the South Carolina Gamecocks emerged as a potential national championship contender. Their 28-point win over the Texas Longhorns put the world on notice as they headed down to San Antonio. While their win was impressive, the Stanford Cardinals may have had the most impressive win of the weekend. Down 14 points in the third quarter, the top-seeded Cardinals managed to outscore Louisville by 27 points in the second half and pull out a 15-point win. If there's anything that has been consistent about championship teams, it's their ability to win tight games when things are not going their way.
The Cardinals are led by a trio of stars that includes Lexi Hull, Kiana Williams and Haley Jones, After suffering a major knee injury last season, Jones has emerged as a star who can play the one through the four. Averaging just above 12 points and seven rebounds over the last three games, she stands as a model of consistency and versatility for the Pac 12 Champions. In the Final Four, Jones will be invaluable as the Cardinals move her around to defend the Gamecoks' offensive weapons.
As mentioned above, the South Carolina Gamecocks were dominant in their win against the Texas Longhorns last week. Led by Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks held the Longhorns to just 34 points over three quarters and none in the fourth quarter. In order to hand the Stanford Cardinals their third loss in nearly 35 games, the Gamecocks will have to play with the same level of energy on the defensive end. Just a few days ago the Cardinals didn't just score in the second half, they put up 52 points in one half. In order to combat their offensive firepower, they'll need Aliyah Boston to defend the rim and keep Kiana Williams and Lexi Hull from finishing at the basket.
Boston will not only need to be special on the defensive end, but she will also need to pour in a few points as well. While Zia Cooke is the team's favorite offensive weapon, Boston has put up nearly 15 points per game in this year's tournament. With Stanford's offensive capability, they'll need to keep up on the offensive end as well.
UConn Guard Paige Bueckers may have just won the AP Player of the Year award, but Aari McDonald is playing better than just about anyone in the country right now. McDonald started off by averaging 18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game during the first weekend of the tournament. Then, she took things to a different level during the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. In two games, she averaged 32 points, 8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Now, she faces her toughest test of the tournament, UConn. With Bueckers and Christyn Williams on the other end, McDonald will need to keep up the pace she set last week in order for the Wildcats to make it to the national championship.
When UConn is discussed, the conversation immediately turns toward Paige Bueckers. The freshman guard has rightfully earned the spotlight through her incredible run to the Final Four and AP Player of the Year honors. With that said, there are a lot of aspects of the Huskies program that make it what it is. Most notably, Geno Auriemma has led the team to its 13th straight Final Four. On the court, Bueckers is joined by future WNBA star Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa. The team is rounded out by 6'3 forward Aaliyah Edwards. Last weekend, Edwards played a crucial part in defending future WNBA lottery pick Caitlin Clark. She then followed it up with a controversial stop against Baylor's DiJonai Carrington. Not to mention, she averaged a double-double during last weekend's two-game run.
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