Women’s NCAA Final Four Betting Preview

Iowa’s win over Louisiana State University in the Elite 8 was the most-watched women’s basketball game in history, and the most wagered-upon event in all of women’s sports. Caitlin Clark is a huge reason for the increased interest. But even the other Elite 8 matchup that same day – UConn vs. USC – topped all of broadcast television, with an average of 6.7 million viewers.

The reality is that with Clark or without Clark, this is a great basketball tournament filled with stars worth watching. It’s also a tournament worth betting.

No. 3 North Carolina State vs. No. 1 South Carolina (-11.5)

North Carolina State comes into the Final Four as a three-seed. But they are considered to be light years behind South Carolina in talent and in the point spread.

The Wolfpack were picked to finish eighth in the ACC and miss the NCAA Tournament entirely. None of their players received any preseason recognition. But here they are in the Final Four for the first time since 1998, a win away from truly shocking the college basketball world.

In order for that to happen, Aziaha James – the overlooked star to begin the season – needs to have the biggest game of her career. She scored 29 points in N.C. State’s upset win over Stanford, and then another 27 on Sunday against Texas to get the Wolfpack to Friday’s game.

It’s a great story, and she will be one to watch next season. But in all likelihood, there will be no shocking of the world. South Carolina is a methodical machine and the best team in the country. They were that last year, too, when they lost in the semifinals to Iowa, spoiling their perfect season. But it’s too much to think that the undefeated Gamecocks will lose in the semis again.

The WNBA-bound Kamilla Cardoso is the best inside player in women’s college basketball, and if not for Clark, Te-Hina Paopao would be the outside shooter we’d be raving about.

All of South Carolina’s season has been about Friday’s game and Sunday’s championship, and they will not disappoint Friday night.

South Carolina is the big point spread favorite against N.C. State, and they are paying -195 to win the title.

No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 1 Iowa (-2.5)

You may not be as familiar with Paige Bueckers as you are with Caitlin Clark. But you will be by the end of the action on Friday night. She has won a national Player of the Year award, she has played with Clark on Team USA, and she and her UConn Huskies ended Clark’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament with a win in the Sweet 16.

Now she has a chance to end Clark’s final NCAA Tournament run as she also chases her first national championship, which feels like a rite of passage when you play at Connecticut. They lead all of women’s college basketball with 11 national championships and 23 Final Four appearances, including this one.

But the last title came in 2016, making this the longest championship drought for UConn since they won their first in 1995. So maybe they are due. Perhaps Bueckers, who is averaging 28 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in the NCAA Tournament, will have a game for the ages.

This season that has been so much about the record-setting Clark, and if that continues until the championship game, it’s setting up a rematch between Iowa and South Carolina on Sunday. As the stage gets bigger, so does Clark’s game, and if there is an Achilles heel for this UConn defense, it is on the perimeter. That could spell doom against a player like Clark, and a team like Iowa that features multiple good outside shooters.

This game should be considerably closer than the first matchup of the night. But it’s hard to picture a scenario in which Clark and Iowa aren’t advancing with a win.

Iowa is a modest 2.5-point favorite, and they are paying +300 to win the title.

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