Women's Final Four Preview: South Carolina, UConn to Advance

womens final four

Kevin Stott

Friday, March 31, 2017 3:19 PM GMT

Connecticut looks for its 112th straight win Friday when the Huskies face Mississippi State in Friday's second Women's Final Four game from Dallas, with Stanford and South Carolina meeting in the first game. Let’s handicap both.

 

No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 1 South Carolina

American Airlines Center, Dallas, 7:30 p.m. ET

NAT TV: ESPN2

Head Coach Dawn Staley and Stockton Regional winners South Carolina (31-4 SU) face Coach Tara VanDerveer and Lexington Regional winners Stanford (32-5) in Friday’s first Final Four game. Oddsmakers have made the Lady Gamecocks slight 2½-point favorites (134½, BetOnline). USC is on an 9-game win streak, and led by SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson (17.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) walloped Quinnipiac by 42 in the Sweet 16, 100-58, and then covered in the Regional Final on Monday as 5-point favorites, beating Florida State, 71-64. Stanford heads in on an 8-game win streak and off an upset 76-75 victory over regional top-seeded Notre Dame on Sunday. The Cardinal will look to Erica McCall (14.4 ppg), Brittany McPhee (13.4) and Karlie Samuelson (12.8 ppg) for scoring with PG Marta Sniezek (4.4 apg), Stanford’s floor general.

Combined with some energy and confidence from the South Carolina men’s program’s current Cinderella March Madness run and the valuable experience gained in an 11-point loss (66-55) to UConn at Storrs on Feb. 13, expect 6-foot-5 star Wilson, Kaela Davis (15.8 ppg), Allisha Gray and the Lady Gamecocks to earn another shot at the Huskies in Sunday’s championship game.

Free NCAAB Pick: South Carolina -2½Best Line Offered: BetOnline

 

No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 2 Mississippi State

American Airlines Arena, Dallas, 9:30 p.m. ET

NAT TV: ESPN2

Napheesa Collier (27 points, 14 rebounds), Katie Lou Samuelson (20.7 ppg) and No. 1 Connecticut (36-0 SU) will put their 111-game win streak on the line in Friday’s second Final Four matchup against Mississippi State (33-4). The Bulldogs, who have lost to South Carolina twice (by 3 and 10), had a school-record 33 wins this season en route to their first Final Four and are known for playing in-your-face defense (forced 6.95 tpg, #9). Alas, HC Vic Schaefer & Co. are in the wrong place at the wrong time here against Head Coach Geno Auriemma and his Huskies, who are seeking their 4th straight national championship. UConn is 48-2 SU in Women’s March Madness games since 2009, 22-6 all-time in Semifinals and Championship games and walloped Mississippi State, 98-38, in the Sweet 16 last year.

Even though the point spread here seems large (UConn -21½, 149½, BetOnline), the reality here is that this computer-like team is on a different level as well as on a mission, and combined with Collier, Samuelson, Kia Nurse (13.0 ppg) and 5-foot-11 Gabby Williams (17/9/6) -- who has averaged 21.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 apg and 2 spg and shot 64% from the field -- and a dynamite bench, this one may be covering ATS by halftime on the way to yet another 40-point lopsided UConn crush job.

Free NCAAB Pick: Connecticut -21½Best Line Offered: BetOnline