TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie takes a look at the games in the women’s Final Four. Her Blue Devils played all four teams this year.
SOUTH CAROLINA-NOTRE DAME
Tempo, tempo, tempo. Whoever can dictate the pace of this game has a better chance of winning it. Both teams can get up and down the floor, but it’s more to South Carolina’s liking to get post players involved.
Each team has a dynamic player who can take a game over with Jewell Loyd of Notre Dame and Tiffany Mitchell of South Carolina. Loyd can do almost anything she wants on the floor offensively and she can take over a game when she needs to.
Mitchell is more about controlling the flow of the game and taking over when needed.
The other interesting matchup is the two freshmen. A’ja Wilson and Brianna Turner were predicted to be the top two freshmen coming into this season. How will Muffet McGraw utilize Turner against the big front line of the Gamecocks?
Wilson hit the key tip-in to beat us and wasn’t a huge factor in the win over Florida State.
Notre Dame definitely has the experience going for them having been to five straight Final Fours while this is South Carolina’s first. Although Dawn Staley was here a few times as a player, it’s a different entity when you’re worrying as a coach about all the different time demands put on your team. Also as a player, the ball is in your hands when the game’s on the line. As a coach you just hope they make the right choices.
If the game does come to the end in a tight contest, South Carolina has been in a few of those this season, including a one-point win over Duke. Notre Dame has had just one contest come down to the final possession.
To see what Maryland has been able to do to get back to the Final Four for a second straight season after losing Alyssa Thomas is impressive. The Terrapins’ guard play is much better this season with Lexie Brown and Laurin Mincy leading the way.
While both Notre Dame and South Carolina saw Connecticut this season, Maryland hasn’t. It’s always tough when you haven’t played them in a year to adjust to the pace at which they play the game. What helps Maryland is that most of this team did play against the Huskies last season.
Unlike last season, when the Terrapins made the Final Four for the first time since their national championship in 2006, Maryland knows how to handle the pressure of the big stage better.
That said, no one has been here more often than UConn lately it seems. They have been to eight straight Final Fours for a reason.
They have five players on the court who can score in a variety of ways and also play such great defense. Starting with Breanna Stewart, who is nearly impossible to guard because she is so versatile. Throw in Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and how well she’s shooting in the tournament. Not to mention the play of Morgan Tuck and this team is difficult to matchup with. Who are you going to stop?
They don’t take bad shots and pass the ball so effectively to get pretty much whatever shot they want. They also play such great defense that isn’t cookie cutter. They take away what you want to do and make it so difficult to score.
Most importantly though, they’ve been here before and know what it takes to win a championship.