Everything to know before today’s women’s March Madness championship final tips off

April 7, 2024
Sixty-eight teams and almost three weeks of women’s hoops Madness later, it all comes down to two No. 1 seeds: The South Carolina Gamecocks and Iowa Hawkeyes.
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Everything to know before today’s women’s March Madness championship final tips off
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⬅️ Final Four recap

Before diving into today’s game, let’s recap Friday’s sellout crowd Final Four matchups.

No. 1 South Carolina defeats No. 3 NC State 78–59: After a tight first half, the Gamecocks flipped the script, pulling away from the tired-looking Wolfpack to secure the dub.

  • The key to their win? Their depth. Seven different Gamecocks combined to outscore NC State 29–6 in the third quarter alone.
  • Add that to senior center Kamilla Cardoso’s double-double and sixth woman sophomore forward Ashlyn Watkins’ 20 rebounds, and NC State didn’t stand a chance.

No. 1 Iowa squeaks by No. 3 UConn 71–69: This record-breaking nightcap lived up to the hype. While UConn senior guard Nika Mühl’s suffocating defense held the aforementioned Caitlin Clark to a measly six first-half points, the Hawkeyes took advantage of UConn’s short bench and foul trouble to complete the comeback victory — their first win over UConn in 34 years.

🐓 No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks

Everything to know before today’s women’s March Madness championship final tips off
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Nobody’s perfect…except, perhaps, the Gamecocks. Four-time Naismith Coach of the Year Dawn Staley’s squad is the only undefeated Division I (DI) team — women’s or men’s — this season.

  • A dub today will also maintain their perfect championship final record: South Carolina has won both of their previous March Madness title games.

How they got here: After graduating all five starters from last year’s Final Four squad, expectations surrounding South Carolina slightly cooled. But with massive “we’ve got next” energy, the shiny new Gamecocks began with a bang, starting their season of le basket with a 100–71 rout of Notre Dame in Paris, France. Oh la la.

  • South Carolina only picked up speed from there, plowing over their 38 regular and postseason opponents by an average of 29.6 (!!!) points. This silly squad only knows how to win, and win big.

Keys to success: Put simply, a deep bench and defense, defense, defense. South Carolina is the most balanced team in the nation, with their starters and bench players contributing to their perfect cause.

  • If they can leverage their bigs on offense, and take a cue from the UConn’s Mühl to keep Iowa’s Clark somewhat at bay, expect South Carolina to hoist the national championship hardware.

🦅 No. 1 Iowa Hawkeyes

Everything to know before today’s women’s March Madness championship final tips off
Source: IowaWBB/X

Iowa owned the college basketball spotlight this season thanks to their superstar senior guard Caitlin Clark. But while the DI scoring GOAT has been accumulating records-on-records, the rest of the Hawkeyes’ roster has mostly flown under the radar — making Clark’s teammates the perfect postseason secret weapons in the program’s first title hunt.

How they got here: Compared to the Gamecocks’ undefeated season, Iowa’s four season losses loom large. That said, propelled by their best-in-the-nation offense, all but one of those four Ls had a single-digit score differential.

Keys to success: Iowa defeated last year’s then-unbeaten South Carolina team in the Final Four with relentless offense — something their back-to-back Player of the Year Clark does prolifically.

  • Combine that with their signature “Iowa basketball” and a squad who steps up when Clark is quieted, and the Hawkeyes’ often-overlooked teamwork could be the difference-maker in bringing home their first championship.

💪 Players to watch

Everything to know before today’s women’s March Madness championship final tips off
Source: Getty Images

Caitlin Clark, Iowa: From logo threes to incredible assists, the record-setting Clark has earned her unmatched fanbase. The only real question is, can Clark seal her spot in college hoops lore by winning an NCAA championship? Couldn’t tear your eyes away if you tried.

Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ leading scorer is absolutely commanding in the paint — both on offense and defense. The 6-foot-7 Brazilian star brings toughness and agility that can squash opponents making her the biggest individual obstacle to a Hawkeye victory — as long as she stays healthy.

Hannah Stuelke, Iowa: Posting up for Iowa is the aforementioned Stuelke, the only Hawkeye to outscore Clark (and twice!) all season. The sophomore has room to grow, and will need to be mindful of fouls given Iowa doesn’t have as much depth under the basket as the Gamecocks. But she can be absolutely explosive, so if she’s on, watch out.

Ashlyn Watkins, South Carolina: That South Carolina depth under the rim? Her name’s Watkins. According to Staley, despite coming off the bench, she’s the X-factor in their success. Friday’s impressive 20-rebound game aside, Watkins is also the Gamecocks’ fourth-best scorer.

Gabbie Marshall, Iowa: Marshall’s arguably the most underrated of Iowa’s starters, but she’s their most impactful defensive player, usually guarding their opponent’s top scorer. And defense (aka Gabbie) wins championships, right?

Te-Hina Paopao, South Carolina: Every South Carolina player is worth watching, but senior guard Paopao, who’s had an immediate impact after transferring from Oregon last summer, is the lethal squad’s third-best scorer — and in a throwdown against the bucket-happy Hawkeyes, every point she can drain will be needed.

📺 How to tune in

Everything to know before today’s women’s March Madness championship final tips off
Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Prep your ’fit and your snack pouch for today’s 3 p.m. ET tip-off. If you’re in the U.S., tune in on ABC (and enjoy their elite broadcast team). Up in the Great White North? Catch all the action on TSN4.

  • Plus, basketball legends Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi are back with their star-studded, hysterical alternate broadcast, The Bird and Taurasi Show, airing on ESPN stateside and TSN+ north of the border. Red cups and sarcasm? Say less.