Major Final Four Showdowns In Dallas

South Carolina guard Zia Cooke and Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, who were USA U16 teammates during their high school careers, are set to lead their college teams against each other in a highly anticipated Final Four matchup.

Stratman Cooke III

The South Carolina, Virginia Tech, LSU and Iowa teams are all in Dallas at the Final Four with one thing in mind — winning the national championship.

Iowa’s prolific scoring guard Caitlin Clark has the Hawkeyes in the Final Four, but the odds aren’t in their favor as they prepare to face No. 1 overall seed South Carolina tonight in the second semifinal game of the night.

No. 1 seed Virginia Tech (31-4) faces No. 3 seed LSU (32-2) in the other semifinal.

Caesars Sportsbook, FanDuel and Barstool have the undefeated Gamecocks (36-0) as huge 11.5-point favorites over the Hawkeyes (30-6).

South Carolina is chasing  history. Two more wins and the Gamecocks would become the 10th undefeated national champion and only the fifth program with at least three national titles. South Carolina  coach Dawn Staley led the Gamecocks to their first national championship in 2017 and they have a chance to become only the fourth team to claim back-to-back national championships.

Clark, who was named the Associated Press Player of the Year, single-handedly was responsible for Iowa earning a trip to Texas by recording the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history in a win over Louisville. She finished with 41 points, a dozen assists and 10 boards in a 97-83 victory over the Cardinals in an Elite Eight meeting.

She is the most dynamic offensive player in college basketball. The Hawkeyes junior guard has been good for 27 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game this season. Her talent to sink baskets, particularly from long range beyond the 3-point arc, will be put to the test against the Gamecocks, one of the best defensive teams in the country. South Carolina senior guard Zia Cooke, who was a USA U16 teammate of Clark’s during their high school careers, will be among the Gamecocks assigned to guard Iowa’s leading scorer.

Clark’s ability to score in bunches will certainly be needed against South Carolina, a talented and experienced team that hasn’t lost a game in over a calendar year. The Gamecocks have won 42 straight games dating back to last season.

Aliyah Boston, last season’s Player of the Year, leads the way for South Carolina, averaging team-bests 9.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. The 6-4 Boston is also scoring 13.2 points per game, which ranks second to Cooke’s team-leading 15.1 points. Boston’s backup, 6-7 junior Kamilla Cardoso, makes the most of her length, too. She ranks second on the team in rebounding (8.4) and blocks (1.9) while also chipping in with 9.7 points per game.

Iowa’s 6-3 post Monika Czinano, who averages 17.2 points and 6.6 rebounds, and 6-1 forward McKenna Warnock, who averages 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds, have been key in the No. 2 seed Hawkeyes advancing through the NCAA tournament.

The opening matchup figures to be a close contest. Barstool and Caesars Sportsbook actually have LSU as slight 2-point favorites over the Hokies.

LSU’s 6-3 forward Angel Reese has been a force around the rim, leading the Tigers in scoring (23.2) and rebounds (15.7). Guards Alexis Morris (14.9 points) and Fau’Jae Johnson (11.1 points) form a steady backcourt for LSU.

Hokies’ 6-7 center Elizabeth Kitley (18.2 points, 10.7 rebounds), point guard Georgia Amoore (16.3 points, 5.0 assists) and forward Taylor Soule (11.1 points, 5.7 rebounds) provide plenty of offensive balance on a team that averages 72.5 points per game.

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