The long wait is over, and we are now THIS close to crowning the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Champion! After starting with the top 68 teams in the nation 3 weeks ago, we are now to just 2 teams remaining, the UCONN Huskies and the South Carolina Gamecocks, with the winner taking home the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Title!
During the Women’s Sweet 16, we racked up a 7-1 record and correctly predicted 7 of the 8 teams that would go on to advance to the Elite Eight. And this week, we went 2-0 on the Women’s Final Four, with winning plays on UCONN (Pick ‘Em) and South Carolina (-8), correctly predicting tonight’s national finals matchup between the Huskies and the Gamecocks.
— NCAA Women's Final Four (@WFinalFour) April 2, 2022
The women’s game doesn’t get as much attention as the men’s side does, but this tournament has been exciting, and our plays have been high value. And you certainly can’t argue with the results, as we have been killing the game and when the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament comes to an end on Sunday night, I for one will be sad to see it go, as it has been a great honey hole for us in the last several weeks. With that, let’s jump right into my breakdown of the women’s national championship game between the UCONN Huskies and the South Carolina Gamecocks!
UCONN Huskies (30-5)
Geno Auriemma is the greatest women’s basketball coach of all time. He is a Hall of Famer that holds basically every major record when it comes to coaching women’s basketball, including the most national titles with 11, and the most national coach of the year awards with 8. He also led the women’s US national team for nearly a decade, winning multiple world and Olympic titles along the way.
There isn’t anything that he hasn’t accomplished when it comes to coaching women’s hoops and at this point, he has moved past the conversation surrounding who the greatest women’s coach of all time is, as that debate is settled, and now he is starting to be mentioned amongst the greatest team coaches in all of sport’s history.
— NCAA Women's Final Four (@WFinalFour) April 2, 2022
Even with as immaculate as Geno’s resume is, there is one accomplishment that stands out to me as being almost unbelievably impressive. Auriemma has taken teams to the national finals a whopping 11 times in his long career leading the Lady Huskies. His record in those games? A perfect 11-0. That is a level of consistent winning that we have only seen from guys like John Wooden and Red Auerbach, and if he can find a way to run that record to 12-0 this weekend, it might be time to start calling him the GOAT coach, no matter the sport.
Between injuries to several key players and a slow start to the season that saw them lose 3 games before the calendar turned to January, which to UCONN standards is more losses than they are accustomed to having in a full season, it has been a long and winding road to the national title game for the Lady Huskies. That being said, UCONN has finally gotten healthy at the right time, and if they can knock off the Gamecocks and take home yet another national title, nobody is going to remember all of the ups and downs that it took to make it happen.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) April 2, 2022
When we look at the injuries that have ravaged UCONN this season, none were bigger than losing Paige Bueckers for nearly 3 full months of the year. Bueckers had a monster season last year as a freshman, and she came into this season feeling like the next Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, or Sue Bird, as being next in the long line of UCONN players that have taken home the national player of the year award while playing under Auriemma at UCONN.
But the injury derailed all of that talk and when Bueckers did finally return to the floor in late February, the focus was on making sure that she was ready to play meaningful games in March, to help lead UCONN to their first national title since 2016.
Her minutes were kept very low at first, as she never played more than 18 minutes in any game down the stretch of the regular season, but we saw that while she may not be 100% just yet, she is ready to play, when she played an absurd 45 minutes against NC State in a double-overtime thriller and then followed it up with 34 minutes in the Final Four against Stanford.
South Carolina Gamecocks (34-2)
When Dawn Staley took over the program at South Carolina, it was by no means an instant turnaround. Staley didn’t finish with a winning record until year 3 and the Gamecocks didn’t make the NCAA tournament until her 4th year in Columbia. But since then, Staley has turned USC into a juggernaut, as they have averaged over 30 wins per season, making it to at least the Sweet 16 in every season.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 2, 2022
The Cocks won it all back in 2017 and they were the odds-on favorite to win it again last year, as they hit the NCAA tournament as the number one overall seed before losing in the Final Four to Stanford. The resume could have been even better for Staley and her Gamecocks, as they were also the nation’s number one team in 2020, racking up a 32-1 record before seeing the tournament get canceled due to COVID-19. Geno Auriemma is the GOAT of women’s hoops, but Dawn Staley is hot on his heels, and she just might be the best coach in the country right now.
It has been a dream season for South Carolina this year, as they were number 1 wire to wire and despite a late-season loss to Kentucky in the SEC tournament, the Gamecocks still snagged the number one overall seed in this tournament. USC has rampaged their way through this bracket, as only their game against North Carolina was remotely competitive, and they made short work of 1-seed Louisville in their last game, beating the Cardinals by 13-points in a game that wasn’t even as close as the final score might suggest.
BREAKING: Aliyah Boston of South Carolina is The Associated Press women's basketball Player of the Year. ?
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 31, 2022
We talked about how Paige Bueckers is the difference-maker for UCONN, but even with as great as Bueckers is, she won’t be the best player on the floor tonight, as South Carolina has the nation’s top player, in national player of the year winner Aliyah Boston. Boston is a fantastic 2-way player that can score the basketball and crash the boards, and if the Cocks find a way to win this game, it will be with Boston leading the way. In her last game, Boston went for 23 points, 18 rebounds, and 4 assists against Louisville and against North Carolina, in the Sweet 16, she was even better, dropping 28 pounds and 22 rebounds against the Tar Heels.
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UCONN Huskies vs South Carolina Gamecocks Betting Odds And Team Statistics
The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:
|UCONN Huskies||+4 (-110)||+155||Over 126 (-110)|
|South Carolina Gamecocks||-4 (-110)||-180||Under 126 (-110)|
|Team Data||UCONN Huskies||South Carolina Gamecocks|
|Points Per Game||74.5||71.1|
|Points Against Per Game||54.2||51.7|
|Field Goal %||47.9%||42.8%|
|Three Point %||34.0%||30.9%|
UCONN Huskies vs South Carolina Gamecocks Prediction:
Yesterday we got to watch Duke and North Carolina battle it out for a spot in the men’s national championship game, in a game that was likely the most hyped non-national finals game of all time. That game more than lived up to the hype, as it was a back-and-forth affair that wasn’t decided until the final few possessions of the game. And while we haven’t heard nearly as much about this women’s finals game, due to the lack of the overall popularity of the sport, this is a true blockbuster matchup, that women’s hoops fans have been dreaming about.
It is impossible to ignore the impact that Paige Bueckers has on her Huskies team. Of UCONN’s 5 losses this season, only 1 of them came when Bueckers was on the floor. She changes the entire dynamic of this team on both sides of the court. You have to wonder if she hadn’t missed all of that time, how would we be rating this matchup right now?
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) April 3, 2022
Conventional wisdom tells us that South Carolina is the favorite and there aren’t many people arguing the other side of that right now, as they have everything you could ever want from a national championship team. But with UCONN’s track record of success in March, if they had their best players playing all season long, and inevitably hit this tournament as a 1-seed, would everyone still be on the Gamecocks?
If all you do is look at the final score, you might think that game was a blowout, but that just wasn’t the case as the 73-57 final score is a bit deceiving. UCONN actually led for much of the first half, took a lead into halftime, and the game was still tied heading into the 4th quarter. USC finished the game on a furious run, with a 16-3 4th quarter, to pull away for the win, but make no mistake, the game was tightly contested for much of the affair.
Now we get to see the rematch we have all been waiting for, with everything on the line.
To me, what separates the all-time great coaches from the rest of the elite coaches, is their ability to make adjustments and to win the big games when they matter. There isn’t a coach better at doing both of those things than UCONN head coach Geno Auriemma. We have already talked about his perfect 11-0 record in national finals games, and there is something to be said for a guy that just refuses to lose when the pressure is turned all of the way up. You can argue a lot of different viewpoints in this game, but the one thing you can’t argue, is that 11-0 is 11-0, and there is no coach in history better in spots like these than Geno Auriemma.
Coaches can do all the research that they want, spending countless hours scouting a team, but until you actually see how a specific matchup plays out on the floor, you never really know how things are going to go. That first game was a long time ago, and a lot has changed for UCONN, but I can guarantee you that Auriemma has been plotting his revenge since the minute they lost that game, and now he has a chance to avenge that loss, I think that is exactly what happens.
Geno Auriemma is now 22-3 in No. 1 vs. No. 2 games.
He's 7-1 when ranked No. 2. ? pic.twitter.com/5vWQUC7TBB
— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) February 10, 2021
For UCONN to win this game, they are going to have to find a way to control Aliyah Boston. In that first meeting, she torched the Huskies for 22 points and 15 rebounds, and if she goes off again tonight, South Carolina is going to win and take home the national title. To paraphrase sportscaster Dan Patrick, you can’t stop her, you can only hope to contain her, and that is going to be the top priority for UCONN in this game.
I do think that UCONN is going to win this game, as they have been far too consistently excellent in big games over the years to doubt them. And while I will be making a play on the money line on UCONN as underdogs, I will also be taking the lower variance approach as well, by snatching up the 4-points and backing the Huskies on the point spread.
To be able to get UCONN with more than a full possession’s worth of points shows outrageous value and I just can’t pass it up. No matter which team wins or loses this game, I would be shocked if this wasn’t a single-possession game the entire way through. That 4-point insurance policy on UCONN, in case the ball doesn’t bounce the Huskies way late, has me loving our play on Connecticut.
Geno Auriemma is 11-0 in National Championship Games in his career at UConn, but he's *only* 11-7 in National Semifinal games.
UConn-Notre Dame: coming up next on ESPN2. pic.twitter.com/Mns6gkNp6l
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 31, 2018
When you look at the greatest winners of all time, they have one thing in common. They rise to the occasion when it matters the most. Whether it is Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, John Wooden, or Red Auerbach, when they needed a win, they got it, every time. Geno Auriemma belongs in that same elite club of winners, and he is going to show it tonight, as the Huskies shock the world and knock off South Carolina and he takes home his unprecedented 12th national title!
It is almost unbelievable that the Huskies can play this game with a nobody believes in us chip on their shoulder after all they have done in the last 20 years, and that edge is what is going to get them over the top tonight. We are going to sweat it out like crazy, but when all the smoke clears tonight, UCONN wins this game and gets us paid!