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Apr 5, 2024 1:24 pm

Women’s Final Four: UConn-Iowa Preview, Props & Trends

caitlin clark, shoot

The first half of the women’s national title picture will be in place by the time No. 3 seed UConn and top-seeded Iowa tip off at 9 p.m. ET in Cleveland on Friday night.

The star power inside Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse will be palpable as the Paige Bueckers-led Huskies take on Iowa and Hawkeyes superstar Caitlin Clark.

TRENDING
Iowa is favored by 2.5 to 3.5 points at most sportsbook. The Hawkeyes have received lopsided action at BetMGM, where their 2.5-point line has been backed by 88 percent of the money, while their -155 moneyline has drawn 76 percent of the handle.

The action has been similar at BetRivers, which reported Friday morning that Iowa’s 2.5-point line has been supported by 64 percent of the money and the Hawkeyes’ -150 moneyline by 86 percent. The book also reported that Iowa’s spread-line has drawn 19.6 percent of the total Women’s Final Four handle, making it the most wagered-on play, while the Hawkeyes’ moneyline is second with 19.0 percent of the total money wagered.

PROPS
Caitlin Clark Over 33.5 Points (-155 at BetMGM): The three most popular game props at the book are all on Clark, led by this one. After averaging 29.3 points through the first three games of the tournament while struggling to find her 3-point touch a bit, Clark busted out for 41 points in the Hawkeyes’ Elite Eight win over LSU.

Over 162.5 Points: The Over has drawn 81 percent of the money wagered at BetMGM since opening at 163.5 points. The 163-point total at BetRivers has since the Over draw 72 percent of the bets and 65 percent of the money. Iowa is averaging 84.5 points through the first four games of the tournament, while UConn has averaged 72.8 during its run to the Final Four.

THE NEWS
CLEVELAND — Iowa (33-4) is here after beating reigning national champion LSU in the Elite Eight in Albany, N.Y., a game in which Clark scored 41 points, and a game that drew a record 12.3 million viewers as the most-watched women’s college basketball game on record.

The matchup with UConn (33-5) is sure to draw a boatload of viewers, too.

It features two national players of the year going head-to-head. Bueckers was the consensus Player of the Year — earning the AP, USBWA, Wooden and Naismith honors — in 2021, while Clark swept the awards last season and accepted the AP honor on Thursday.

Clark and Bueckers have known each other for half of their lives. Clark, from Iowa, and Bueckers, from Minnesota, battled on AAU circuits in the Midwest going back to when they were in middle school. They’ve also been teammates with Team USA.

“I think the coolest thing about Paige is how resilient she is,” Clark said. “The way she carries herself on and off the court and the way she works hard, none of that has changed. She’s always worked that same way, always had that fire and been a leader.”

Clark and Bueckers last met on the hardwood in the 2021 NCAA Tournament — all of which was played in Texas due to COVID-19 restrictions — where UConn beat Iowa in the Sweet 16. Both rookies at the time, Bueckers had 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, while Clark had 21 points and five assists in a 20-point victory for UConn.

UConn also beat this Clark-led Iowa team without Bueckers as she recovered from knee surgery in a 2022 non-conference neutral-site clash, 86-79, during which the Huskies held Clark (25 points) to 2-of-11 from 3-point land.

“I know Caitlin. We go way back,” Bueckers said. “She’s just a competitor. She wants to win. She has the intangibles of the game. She knows how to play, great IQ. I think the biggest thing about her is she competes and she’s just a winner, she wants to win at all costs.”

The spotlight might remain locked on Clark and Bueckers, but the difference in Friday’s clash might be UConn’s skilled post player, Aaliyah Edwards. The 6-foot-3 two-time All-American averages 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season while shooting 59.5 percent from the floor. In the Huskies’ Elite Eight win over No. 1 USC, Edwards had 24 points and six rebounds, while Bueckers had 28 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

While Clark — the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I history — is a singular superstar for the Hawkeyes, Bueckers and Edwards form a powerful dynamic duo for the Huskies.

“I think one of the things that we learned is just leaning more on each other, playing more as a unit, and just playing for something bigger than just the win,” Edwards said.

Iowa – while lacking in pure size – hasn’t had a problem with frustrating powerful post players this season. In the Hawkeyes’ Elite Eight win over LSU, Angel Reese scored 17 points but she needed 21 shots to get there and fouled out with about two minutes to play. Iowa has also beaten a Virginia Tech team armed with 6-6 Elizabeth Kitley and a Kansas State squad with 6-6 Ayoka Lee.

“I think we’re going to have to play a great half-court defense, going to need to run in transition, and need to execute our offense in the half-court,” Clark said. “I think it’s all those things.”

SERIES HISTORY
UConn is 6-3 all-time against Iowa.

THEY SAID IT
–“I do not want this to be a game that’s promoted as Caitlin versus Paige, and I know it already has been. But I don’t want that,” Bluder said. “I want it to be Iowa versus UConn and let these two women do what they do best.” –Iowa coach Lisa Bluder

–Field Level Media

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