After a memorable NCAA tournament filled with upsets and unexpected twists and turns, the end of the season has come down to four of the most high profile teams in the country converging in Minneapolis this weekend.
South Carolina, Louisville, Stanford, and UConn.
Two out of those four have traveled vastly different paths to reach the ultimate prize of a national title. South Carolina (33-2) vs. Louisville (29-4) is a matchup between the established juggernaut vs the up-and-coming contender.
The Cardinals come in as the clear underdogs. However, even though they have less recognition, they solidified a No. 1 seed in the Wichita region by cruising through the tournament to reach their first Final Four since 2018. They have some star power in sophomore guard Hailey Van Lith, who averaged 14.5 pts per game and became the first player in school history to score 20 points or more in four consecutive tournament games, not a real surprise coming from someone who was trained under the late Kobe Bryant at his Mamba Academy. Their coach Jeff Walz has produced some good numbers since he began his tenure in 2007. He is currently 401-108 and has reached the Final Four in 2009, 2013, 2018, and now 2022.
Louisville certainly has much to feel good about, except for its opponent. The Cardinals are up against South Carolina, who has been the top-ranked team in the country all year long. It’s no surprise to anyone that the Gamecocks have reached this point.
Led by the legendary coach Dawn Staley, who was named Coach of the Year, they are entering their fourth final four in the last seven tournaments, which includes a national title in 2017. Furthermore, they have the incomparable Aliyah Boston, who was named the Naismith player of the year and defensive player of the year. She is averaging 16.8 points and 12.2 rebounds this season and is looking to bring the national title back home. Furthermore, South Carolina has the best defense in the country, and Boston is a major contributor to that.
Even with Louisville’s growing potential, I am going to give South Carolina the edge due to their already stacked and experienced talent from top to bottom, but as has transpired in the tournament so far, anything is possible during this time.
Will South Carolina continue its amazing run or will Louisville pull off a spectacular upset? We shall see.