Just three games remain in the women’s college basketball season. This March Madness has truly lived up to its name. Let’s dive into the two mouthwatering Final Four matchups and examine who could have the edge in the championship game.
We’ve used NCAA LiveStats to analyse where both Final Four games will be won and lost.
#1 Virginia Tech Hokies vs #3 LSU Tigers (Friday 7:00pm ET)
Virginia Tech on offense, LSU on defense
On offense, the Hokies are great in variation. They like to throw up three-pointers (96 in their last five games), followed by at-the-rim baskets (73), and mid-range two-pointers (52). They’re going to have a hard time shooting the ball in the paint against the length and athleticism of LSU’s post players, who average around five blocks a game and who don’t have a problem following (or taking a charge). Since the Hokies already like to shoot threes and longer range twos, with the power in the paint for the Tigers, I expect they will be shooting from out here more often.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 29, 2023
But they better make them – on the season they’ve shot over 50% from 2-point range and make about third of their threes. LSU is physical and will fight for the rebounds of any shots Virginia Tech misses – this season they secure almost 30 a game.
LSU on offense, Virginia Tech on defense
Between these two teams, LSU has the higher offensive rating for the season, while Virginia Tech has the higher defensive rating for the season – making for an interesting matchup on this end of the court.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 29, 2023
The Tigers like to shoot closer to the hoop and their attempted shots decrease the further away they get. In the last five games, LSU has taken 96 shots at-the-rim, 80 in the paint, and 69 mid-range twos. The Hokies are going to have an interior battle against these Tigers since they average a low 3.6 blocks per game. Another interior battle will be on the boards – the Tigers bring in 17 offensive rebounds a game. If the Hokies can figure out a way to force the Tigers to shoot from further out, they could keep the post-players’ scoring to a minimum; however, they have to be physical and box out when those shots miss.
#1 South Carolina Gamecocks vs #2 Iowa Hawkeyes (Friday 9:30pm ET)
First, let’s talk about how these two teams match up when the Gamecocks are on offense and Hawkeyes on defense.
South Carolina on offense, Iowa on defense
Despite being the overall #1 seed and an undefeated team, the Hawkeyes have a better offensive and defensive rating than the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks prefer to shoot in the paint (95 attempts in their last five games) or at-the-rim (90); the attempts are cut almost in half when they move outside these two areas.
⚡️ Aliyah Boston, @GamecockWBB
▪️ 20.8% 𝙪𝙨𝙖𝙜𝙚
▪️ 61.8% 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙚 𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙤𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜
🔥 Caitlin Clark, @IowaWBB
▪️ 35.7% 𝙪𝙨𝙖𝙜𝙚
▪️ 62.9% 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙚 𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙤𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜
— The Playbook (@genius_playbook) March 28, 2023
It might be hard for the Gamecocks to get the ball this close to the hoop given how strong the Hawkeyes defense is, especially as they average eight steals per game. The plus side for the Gamecocks is if they do get the ball inside, the Hawkeyes also tend to foul – average 14.6 per game this season. The absolute must for the Hawkeyes on defense will be the physicality underneath the hoop to keep the ball out of there and to rebound against a strong offensive rebounding team.
Iowa on offense, South Carolina on defense
The Hawkeye’s better offensive rating comes from their impressive shooting percentages and assists. Iowa will either take their shot at-the-rim (110 in their last five games) or in three-point range (87); the paint and mid-range 2’s aren’t their comfort zone (55 attempts combined). Shots at-the-rim will be difficult for the Hawkeyes against a team that averages more than seven blocks per game and who keep their fouling to less than 10 per game.
🤩 Caitlin Clark is having a @MarchMadnessWBB tournament for the ages:
💫 30 points/game (100th percentile)
💫 11 assists/game (100th)
💫 5.5 def. rebs/game (98th)
💫 2.5 steals/game (98th)
💫 48.7% 3-pt shooting (99th)
— The Playbook (@genius_playbook) March 27, 2023
I wish I had some profound insight for the Gamecocks defense, but we’ve seen the Hawkeyes overcome every style of defense in this tournament, and they are still shooting above 40% from everywhere and averaging over 20 assists a game! The Hawkeyes’ downfall might actually be themselves if they don’t keep turnovers to a minimum – they’re averaging nearly 16 per game this season.
Oh, and they have Caitlin Clark. So there’s that.
Championship Game (Sunday 3:30pm ET)
You can’t help but applaud the two teams that make it out of Friday night with a win. No matter what happens, we know it will be a hard-fought Final Four and the teams that advance more than deserve it. This makes Sunday night will be all the more exciting. Whichever way you slice it, college basketball fans are in for a treat!
Each team has a reason to want to move on to Sunday night’s game.
They’ve only made it past the second round twice in school history – 1999 and this year. This year is already a record for them having made it to the Final Four – but they could continue to stretch the record books by making it to the championship game (and maybe even win it). Even the Hokies’ coach, Kenny Brooks, is in uncharted territory. He’s never made it this far in the tournament either.
They’ve made six Final Four appearances, but never to the championship game. If they win Friday, this will be LSU’s first NCAA Championship appearance. It won’t be head coach Kim Mulkey’s first time in the championship game though, having gone as both a player and coach. She won it in 2019 with Baylor, her third title as a head coach.
They’ve made it to the championship before, as recently as last year. They’ve been NCAA Champions twice – 2017 and 2022 – both with Dawn Staley as their head coach. They’d be the first team since the UConn dynasty in 2015 and 2016 to win back-to-back championships. It would also mean they had a perfect, undefeated season, which would make them the 10th team in NCAA D1 women’s history to do so. History awaits.
This is only the second time in school history the women’s basketball team has made it to the Final Four. A Championship game appearance, especially if they win that too, would be a first for this women’s program. It would also be a first for head coach Lisa Bluder. She’s been the head coach of the Hawkeyes since 2000 and this year, this team is the furthest she’s taken a team in the tournament.
The Playbook is powered by Genius Sports, the exclusive distributor of Official NCAA Data. Our NCAA LiveStats solution is courtside throughout March Madness, capturing location and statistical data for every play in real-time – including the Sweet 16.