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Iowa, Caitlin Clark headline star-studded women’s Final Four matchups: ‘Anybody can win it’

“Anybody can take it. Anybody can win it.” 

The words of Iowa star Caitlin Clark perfectly sum up the women’s tournament this year as just two games stand between the Hawkeyes and the program’s first national championship. But nothing about March Madness is ever certain. 

Caitlin Clark celebrates

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates after the win against the LSU Tigers during the finals of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – Albany Regional at MVP Arena on April 01, 2024 in Albany, New York.  (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The women’s Final Four begins Friday night in Cleveland with Dawn Staley and the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks taking on North Carolina State, making its first appearance in the Final Four since 1998. 

Headlining the night will be the resilient UConn Huskies led by star guard Paige Bueckers as they try to extinguish Iowa’s run at the title in what could be Clark’s final college game before making her mark in the WNBA. 

UConn vs. Iowa 

Paige Bueckers reacts

Paige Bueckers #5 of the Connecticut Huskies yells after a play during the first half against the USC Trojans in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Moda Center on April 01, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Iowa’s dream of capturing the national championship came to a thrilling end at the hands of Angel Reese and LSU last season. The two teams met again in the Elite Eight earlier this week in what was the most-watched women’s college basketball game in history.

Clark, out for revenge, dropped 41 points, including nine 3-pointers, to knock out the defending national champions and move on to the Final Four where they face an injured, but hungry UConn team. 

The Huskies are eight years removed from their last title and are looking to change that as they get ready for the program’s 23rd national semifinal, the most of any school. 

To get there, Bueckers scored 28 points in the Huskies’ 80-73 victory over USC – a feat that was accomplished with just eight healthy players. 

When the two teams meet, it will be an offensive powerhouse versus a balanced system. Iowa ranks No. 1 in offensive rating and effective field goal percentage, and while UConn ranks fifth, the Huskies are second overall in defensive rating compared to the Hawkeyes at 22nd in the country. 

“You’ve got to win one at a time. There’s still two more there to get,” Clark said ahead of the semifinal. “That’s what makes the Final Four so fun. Anybody can take it. Anybody can win it.”

UCONN’S GENO AURIEMMA EXPLAINS WHY HE DIDN’T RECRUIT CAITLIN CLARK

NC State vs. South Carolina

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks is interviewed by Holly Rowe from ESPN after defeating the Oregon State Beavers during the Elite Eight round of the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament held at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York.  (Scott Taetsch/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

South Carolina has flown under the radar this season, but maybe that’s a good thing. 

For the second consecutive year South Carolina has reached the Final Four undefeated, but despite this, the Gamecocks have seemingly flown under the radar. And Dawn Staley likes that. 

“I like it. I really do. Like go ahead, take the spotlight, put it somewhere else,” the veteran head coach recently said. “Let this team continue to thrive in the space that they’re given. Hopefully at the end of the day, next week this time, I’m hoping that we give a lot of people a lot to talk about.”

South Carolina has won 60 straight home games, winning games by an average of 29.6 points including some wins by more than 70. Despite being one of the most elite program’s in the country, South Carolina faces their biggest challenge yet in NC State. 

The Wolfpack have been responsible for not one, but two major upsets this year knocking out top-seeded Texas and No. 2 seed Stanford. NC State wasn’t even ranked to start the season, but guard Aziaha “Zaza” James has shined for the Wolfpack, scoring 29 and 27 points respectively in their last two games. 

Aziaha James reacts

Aziaha James #10 of the NC State Wolfpack reacts after making a three point basket during the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament held at the Moda Center on March 29, 2024 in Portland, Oregon.  (Tyler Schank/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The lineup

South Carolina and NC State begin the semifinals with a 7 p.m. ET tip off followed by Iowa and UConn at 9:30 pm. ET. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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