Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico looks at the women’s Final Four matchups between South Carolina and Stanford and Arizona’s showdown with UConn. Barnes Arico guided the Wolverines to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history this year.
STANFORD vs. SOUTH CAROLINA:
Led by two incredible coaches, this matchup will come down to whether Stanford will be able to score like they did in the second half against Louisville or if South Carolina can slow them down.
It will be a chess match between Tara VanDerveer and Dawn Staley, for who I have the utmost respect. They are both very good at making adjustments in big games, and the moment shouldn’t faze either of them.
The Cardinal has a dominant guard in Kiana Williams, who is no stranger to hitting big shots and settled the team down in the second half against the Cardinals in the Elite Eight. Stanford has an incredible depth that can throw a lot of different looks at South Carolina. You saw in the Elite Eight game, Ashten Prechtel didn’t play in the first half and stepped up to score 16 points and rally the team. They are just so versatile on what they can do on both ends of the court.
South Carolina has an outstanding inside-outside presence, with Aliyah Boston dominating the pain and Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson on the perimeter. If you double-team Boston, will other kids step up and make plays. Cooke and Henderson definitely can.
Stanford has the depth in the post to throw a lot of different looks at Boston with Cameron Brink, if she’s healthy, Fran Belibi, and many others.
The Gamecocks are also so good in transition, so the Cardinal have to figure out a way to slow them down a bit.
UCONN vs. ARIZONA
Experience against the newcomers. To think that UConn has been to 13 consecutive Final Fours is crazy, but Geno Auriemma has them ready every year to get there. Arizona is playing in its first one, but that may help them as they have nothing to lose and no real pressure.
Adia Barnes has done a phenomenal job and is one of the up-and-coming coaches in the business. Watching Aari McDonald from afar, wow, that kid is fast and sensational. She’s so quick with the ball and also is a disruptor on the defensive end of the court. There are not many players that are both the defensive player of the year and the conference’s top player.
Watching with my children, they said she’s the fastest player we’ve seen all year.
UConn most likely will counter her with Christyn Williams, who has done a tremendous job on the defensive end over the last month or two. This will be an outstanding individual matchup. Can the Huskies do her work for all her points? Arizona will need someone else to step up on the offensive end to have a chance to win the game even if McDonald scores 30.
The Wildcats need to be unafraid, relentless, and confident. Make shots when they are open and make the plays like they did in the Elite Eight down the stretch if the game is tight.
The Huskies have their own star in Paige Bueckers. She’s already shown so much poise as a freshman and reminds me a bit of Diana Taurasi with her swagger on the court. It’s unusual for freshmen to have that much confidence already, but Auriemma has helped instill that in her. She’s been at her best in the most significant moments thriving in those situations.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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