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National Championship Preview: Stanford and Arizona face off in all-Pac-12 final

After a crazy Final Four, the national title game features the Stanford Cardinal, who are seeking their third title in program history and first since 1992. Meanwhile, the Arizona Wildcats are in the title game for the first time in program history.

Arizona v Connecticut
Aari McDonald has put on a show and has her team on the brink of the program’s first national championship.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Th 2021 Women’s NCAA tournament ends with an all Pac-12 national championship game as the No. 1 seed Stanford Cardinal face the No. 3 seed Arizona Wildcats on Sunday at 6 p.m ET (ESPN). Stanford began the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and is in the national title game for the first time since 2010, seeking its first title since 1992. Arizona has gotten by some of the best teams in the country, including the No. 1 seed UConn Huskies, to continue its best tournament run in program history.

The Cardinal arrive at the national title game after surviving a close game against the No. 1 seed South Carolina Gamecocks. Stanford’s team defense was quite good as expected, holding the Gamecocks to 35 percent shooting from the floor. The most impressive fact about Stanford’s win is that senior guard Kiana Williams had just eight points. Look for her to be aggressive early to get her offense going after shooting 4-of-14 in her last game.

Prior to the South Carolina game, Stanford’s offense had been rolling, averaging 81 points. How Stanford’s offense responds against a familiar but, very in-form opponent will be a key part of the game. Haley Jones had her third 20-point game of the season on 11-of-14 shooting against South Carolina. She will need to come up big again as the Wildcats’ defense hones in on Williams.

The Wildcats shocked the basketball world by knocking off UConn in impressive fashion. The Wildcats have put on a defensive clinic throughout the tournament, holding all five opponents under 60 points. Another stat that sticks out is Arizona’s 3-point defense during the tournament, as they have held their five opponents to 24 percent from beyond the arc. On the offensive end, Aari McDonald, Arizona’s star senior point guard, is averaging 24.5 points and shooting 48 percent from deep in this tournament.

Arizona’s defense has been pretty solid all year but it has been their hot 3-point shooting that has carried them. After shooting 31 percent during the regular season, the Wildcats have shot 42 percent on 3-point shots and are averaging 8.9 made 3-point shots.

Based on Arizona’s current performance, the two regular season meetings between these two teams do not necessarily inform us on how the game will go in San Antonio. However, it is worth noting that Stanford won the meetings this year by 27 and 14 points, respectively. Additionally, Stanford has won four of its last five meetings against Arizona.

Game Information

No. 3 seed Arizona Wildcats (21-5, 13-4 Pac-12) vs. No. 1 seed Stanford Cardinal (30-2, 19-2 Pac-12)

When: Sunday, April 4 at 6 p.m. ET

Where: The Alamodome in San Antonio, TX

How to watch/listen: ESPN/Radio: 1400 AM (Arizona) or SiriusXM 84

Key to the matchup: Arizona will have to challenge Stanford on the boards. Stanford is very good on the offensive glass and that will inevitably lead to second chance points that will be hard to offset for Arizona. The Cardinal will need to find a way to get McDonald out of the rhythm she has been in. On offense, expect McDonald to take Kiana Williams and try to nullify her. It will be on Haley Jones and Lexie Hull to shoulder the load offensively as they did against South Carolina.