By The Associated Press
March Madness is down to the Women’s Final Four. Defending champion South Carolina remains on track to repeat and complete the 10th undefeated season in the women’s game after its 86-75 win over Maryland. Virginia Tech became the second top seed to make it to Dallas with its 84-74 victory over Ohio State to round out the regional finals. With the Hokies advancing, it is the seventh time in the last 10 years there will be a first-time participant in the Final Four. LSU and Iowa won on Sunday to break long droughts. Here is what to know:
GAMES TO WATCH
No. 3 LSU (33-2) vs. No. 1 Virginia Tech (31-4), Friday, 7 p.m. EDT, ESPN
LSU has completed its rapid rise with Kim Mulkey, reaching the Final Four in its second season under the former Baylor coach. The Tigers are in the Final Four for the first time in 15 years after beating Miami 54-42. The Hokies have won 15 straight games and are in the Final Four for the first time in school history. Elizabeth Kitley scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Georgia Amoore added 24 points in their win over the Buckeyes.
No. 1 South Carolina (36-0) vs No. 2 Iowa (30-6), Friday, 9:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN
It will be a matchup of the top two players as All-Americans Aliyah Boston and Caitlin Clark will face off in the second national semifinal. The Gamecocks have won 42 straight games and are in the their third straight Women’s Final Four after an 11-point victory over Maryland. Boston is averaging 12.0 points and 11.0 rebounds during the tournament. Clark and the Hawkeyes are back for the first time in 30 years after a 97-83 victory over Louisville on Sunday night. Clark had the 11th triple-double of her career and the 19th in NCAA Tournament history with 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds against the Cardinals.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Clark was announced as AP player of the year on Thursday after receiving 20 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. She will face South Carolina’s Boston, last season’s winner of the award. LSU’s Angel Reese and others will also capture the spotlight.
Clark had the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA Tournament history to lead Iowa into its first Final Four appearance in 30 years.
Then there is Reese, who has 89 points and 67 rebounds for LSU through four wins.
Clark had one of the greatest individual seasons in NCAA history with eye-popping offensive numbers, averaging 27.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds during the season to help Iowa go 26-6.
Indiana’s Teri Moren was honored as the AP women’s basketball Coach of the Year after leading the school to its first Big Ten regular season championship in 40 years and its first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
You want to know how AP selects the award winners? We got you covered.
Gun violence has cost lives and disrupted college sports all season, touching some of the top programs in college basketball. Coaches have been thrust into uncertain and unwelcome roles in trying to navigate the topic — as well as the fallout from the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
On a lighter note, the women’s tournament has been making a case for its own separate TV deal, and if you think you know the women’s tournament, try this 25-question quiz.
Want to hear from the athletes themselves? UCLA freshman Kiki Rice and injured UConn star Paige Bueckers have each written diaries for The AP about their “tourney journeys.”
HOW TO WATCH
The title game will be on a national network — ABC — for the first time since 1996.
Every game of the women’s tournament has been available on ESPN’s networks or streaming, with fans encouraged to navigate to the “Watch” tab on ESPN’s sites. There are multiple sites listing game times, channels and other details, including the NCAA site.
Who’s going to win the national championship?
Heading into the Final Four, the betting favorites (in order): South Carolina, LSU, Iowa and Virginia Tech, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
With Indiana, Stanford and UConn gone, the Gamecocks are an even bigger favorite to become the first repeat champion in the women’s tournament since UConn won the last of four straight in 2016.
Where is the women’s Final Four? In Dallas, where the semifinals are Friday and the championship game is Sunday. As it happens, the men’s Final Four is a four-hour drive down the road in Houston that same weekend.
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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