The Hamilton Spectator

Stars shine on women’s side

Clark and her Hawkeyes are once again soaking in and enjoying the spotlight


Women’s basketball is having itself a moment as March Madness heads to the Final Four on Friday night.

A year ago, 9.9 million people tuned in to see Angel Reese and LSU beat Caitlin Clark and Iowa in a national championsh­ip game made unforgetta­ble by the two stars who backed up their talk with stellar play. The game was on a national network — ABC — for the first time since 1996.

Well, this season Clark and Reese were back for more and Iowa won a thrilling rematch in the Elite Eight behind 41 points from Clark as more than 12 million people watched in a record for a women’s college basketball game on Monday night. The Hawkeyes next face Paige Bueckers and UConn in one semifinal on Friday night. In the other, North Carolina State will take on No. 1 overall seed South Carolina, which hasn’t lost all season and has a chance to become the 10th perfect national champion.

Clark has been the talk of the sport all season after becoming the alltime top scorer in Division I history and selling out venues wherever Iowa went. She’ll share the stage in Cleveland this weekend.

The Final Four

1 South Carolina vs. 3 N.C. State (7 p.m., Friday). The Wolfpack weren’t even ranked in the pre-season but they climbed to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 by December and have been one of the top teams in the country for months. Caitlin, Paige, Angel and USC’s JuJu Watkins have been in the spotlight, but N.C. State guard Aziaha (Zaza) James is a star, scoring 29 and then 27 points the past two games. The Gamecocks are deep and relentless, riding 22 points from centre Kamilla Cardoso in the Sweet 16 and then 15 from Tessa Johnson in the next game to advance to the semifinals. 1 Iowa vs. 3 UConn (9:30 p.m.,

Friday). The Friday night lights will be bright for the Clark vs. Bueckers show, two standout guards who make their teammates shine. Clark’s scoring has been the talk of the sport, but she also leads the nation in assists per game while Bueckers is back in MVP form for the Huskies, who are in their record 23rd Final Four.

How to watch

Every game of the women’s tournament will be aired — here is a schedule — on ESPN’s networks and streaming services with select games on ABC. While ESPN will air the Final Four, the title game will be back on ABC, just like last season.

Betting guide

South Carolina is the overwhelmi­ng favourite to win its second title in three years and third overall, all since 2017, under coach Dawn Staley. Behind the Gamecocks (in order) are Iowa, UConn and N.C. State, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

When are the games?

The Final Four is in Cleveland on Friday night with the championsh­ip game at 3 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

Go deeper

From Clark to Reese to Watkins, the star power for March Madness is on full blast.

A lot of those talented players happen to be freshmen, too.

And some of the coaches who reached the NCAA Tournament certainly know their way around campus, since they are at their alma mater.

There was a lot of talk about how to stop Clark, who is coached by Lisa Bluder, and her prolific scoring. It’s been tried, with mixed success.

The Pac-12 put seven teams in the tournament as the conference fades away, but none advanced to the Final Four.

The games at times have been overshadow­ed despite robust attendance and ratings. The NCAA had to replace one official at halftime when it was discovered she had a degree from one of the schools whose game she was officiatin­g. Notre Dame star Hanna Hidalgo missed a chunk of the Fighting Irish’s Sweet 16 loss when officials made her remove a nose ring, which she had played with earlier in the tournament.

Away from the court, Utah players and coaches were subjected to racist taunts near their Idaho hotel, which was 40 minutes away from their game site. The NCAA also said one of the three-point lines on the court used this past weekend in Portland, Ore., was about nine inches (23 centimetre­s) short of regulation at its apex without notice during five tournament games.

 ?? ?? Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes shoots a three-point basket over Hailey Van Lith of the LSU Tigers in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y., on Monday.
Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes shoots a three-point basket over Hailey Van Lith of the LSU Tigers in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y., on Monday.

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