A historic final featuring No. 3 LSU and No. 2 Iowa

April 3, 2023
Sixty-eight teams and two and a half weeks of Madness later, it all comes down to two squads playing in their first-ever title games: No. 3 LSU and No. 2 Iowa meet today at 3 p.m. ET for all the marbles.
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⬅️ Final Four recap

Before we dive into tonight’s game, let’s take a quick look back at Friday’s sellout crowd semis.

The first semifinal was a back-and-forth battle, but LSU turned it on late, outscoring Virginia Tech 29–13 in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-point deficit en route to the 79–72 win. Call an ambulance…but not for them.

  • LSU also locked in on defense down the stretch, but not before Virginia Tech’s Georgia Amoore broke the record for the most three-pointers made in a single NCAA tourney, the final highlight of a historic season for the Hokies.

Then the nightcap more than lived up to the hype. Buoyed by a hot start, No. 1 South Carolina’s foul trouble, and, oh yeah, a second consecutive 41-point showing (!!!) from superstar Caitlin Clark, No. 2 Iowa did what many thought was impossible, handing the defending champ Gamecocks their first loss in 389 days, a 77–73 L.

  • Although it wasn’t the result South Carolina wanted, head coach Dawn Staley and standout Aliyah Boston’s squad should hold their heads high. What a ride.

🦅 No. 2 Iowa

The GIST: Caitlin Clark’s goal this year? Taking her team to the Final Four. Now the sensation has brought them a step further, playing in their first-ever title game. It’s a massive step for the program and an even largerr leap for women’s hoops. Nothing better than parity.

How they got here: The Big Ten champs have been on an absolute heater in March, topping their opponents by an average of over 17 points per game. Their four-point Final Four win was their closest, but undoubtedly their most impressive, as the Hawkeyes slowed a strong South Carolina attack and balled out against a tough defense.

  • It’s worth reiterating though that Iowa arguably had it somewhat easy against No. 1 South Carolina: the formidable two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Aliyah Boston, only played 25 minutes due to foul trouble.

Keys to success: Like the Gamecocks, LSU is also a physical squad, so it will be crucial for Iowa to keep their bigs on the court, maintain their presence in the paint and spread the floor in order to let Clark cook. If it ain’t broke…

🐅 No. 3 LSU

The GIST: You may find her ’fits almost as questionable as her politics, but head coach Kim Mulkey’s getting it done on the sidelines, leading LSU to their first-ever title game in just her second season at the helm.

  • It’ll take a stunning performance to pull off the upset tonight, but these Tigers know a thing or two about clawing out dubs.

How they got here: Boosted by a weak early season schedule and plenty of confidence, LSU went undefeated until mid-February when they ran into, who else, South Carolina. As for their NCAA tourney, they’ve had to dig deep to take down fellow top-ranked foes, dealing with poor shooting nights and foul trouble to survive and advance.

Keys to success: It’s easier said than done, but find a way to stop Clark. Limiting just one area of her multifaceted game could keep things close. Otherwise, the Tigers need to take advantage of their height, getting the ball down low and scoring after securing offensive rebounds.

💪 Players to watch

Caitlin Clark, Iowa: Because of course. The Naismith and AP Player of the Year has everyone talking about her jaw-dropping scoring abilities and swagger. During Friday’s semis, she became just the sixth player in NCAA history to score 1,000 points in a single season, and now she’s a mere 17 points away from breaking the all-time single tourney record. Must-watch.

Angel Reese, LSU: SEC single-season double-double record holder and SEC single-season rebounds record holder — no stat is safe when the Bayou Barbie is on the floor. With her strength and crafty moves down low, she can take over a game in the paint, and now she’s coming for that ring.

Monika Czinano, Iowa: When Clark’s dishing it off, chances are she’s looking for Czinano. The fifth-year senior has commanded the post this season with over 17 points per game. That said, if anyone’s prone to foul trouble, it’s Czinano, and she’ll face a major challenge in guarding LSU’s Reese.

Alexis Morris, LSU: The senior clearly didn’t want her career to end without a chance for a trophy: She played every minute in LSU’s Final Four win, posting a game-high 27 points. From being cut by Mulkey at Baylor and transferring three times to ultimately reunite with coach Mulkey, a win would be the perfect storybook ending for this Texas kid.

Kate Martin, Iowa: Amid the Hawkeyes’ electric offensive showing on Friday night, Martin dazzled on defense, holding South Carolina’s high-scoring standouts at bay. She might not score many points, but her pressure on the other side of the floor could be a major factor, especially against LSU’s crafty offense.

Flau’jae Johnson, LSU: The freshman didn’t show any signs of rookie jitters in the semis, notably coming up with a massive defensive stop and score to swing the momentum in LSU’s favor in the fourth quarter. And we already know the rapper lives for the big stage. Expect to see some poetry in motion tonight.

📺 How to tune in

Put on your Sunday best because this afternoon’s 3:30 p.m. ET championship game will be the first women’s title showdown on ABC in the U.S., while Canadian viewers can tune in on TSN.

  • Plus, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will be back for another edition of the highly entertaining, star-filled The Bird and Taurasi Show, airing on ESPN2 stateside and TSN+ up north. Prepare to party — it’s almost game time.