Women’s Final Four 2024 picks, predictions: Why South Carolina, Iowa are best bets for title game

The most-anticipated Women’s Final Four in years – maybe of all time – is here. 

This year’s Women’s Final Four semifinals are Friday night at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The championship game is Sunday at 3 p.m. The semifinal matchups are amazing. 

No. 1 South Carolina (35-0) takes on No. 3 NC State (31-6) in the first semifinal. The Gamecocks remain on track for an unbeaten season under coach Dawn Staley after beating No. 3 Oregon State 70-58 in the Albany 1 regional final. The Wolfpack upset No. 1 Texas 76-66 in the Portland 4 regional final. 

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No. 1 Iowa (33-4) takes on No. 3 UConn (34-5) in the other semifinal. Caitlin Clark has the Hawkeyes back in the Final Four after a 94-87 victory against No. 3 LSU in the Albany 2 Regional, and the Huskies beat No. 1 USC 80-73 in the Portland 3 Regional. 

The field is set, and it is loaded.

Here are our picks for the Women’s Final Four matchups on Friday and Sunday. (Lines courtesy of BetMGM.com).  

Women’s Final Four odds 

Final Four odds 2024

Below are the opening March Madness odds for the Women’s Final Four, including point spreads, money lines and over-under totals for each game according to BetMGM.com

SCar-NCSCU SCar -11.5 SCar -900, NCSU +600 139.5

Women’s Final Four picks, predictions 

  • No. 1 South Carolina (-11.5) vs. NC State 

NC State pulled the upset against the Longhorns with the help of a 27-point performance from guard Aziaha James, who hit five of her seven 3-pointers in the first half. James averages 24.3 points and is shooting 57.1% from 3-point range in the tournament. Guard Saniya Rivers is adding 15 points per game, and that back-court has carried the Wolfpack this far. NC State has four senior starters, and center River Baldwin (10.6 ppg., 6.9 rpg.) will be the player in focus in this matchup. 

Baldwin is 6-foot-5, and she has the task of guarding South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso, who is averaging 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in the tournament. Cardoso shot 64% from the floor against Indiana and Oregon State – which also featured tough post players. Cardoso has a quick release inside the paint, and Baldwin will have to stay out of foul trouble early. 

South Carolina has the guards that can match-up with NC State, too. The Gamecocks shot 33% from 3-point range in their last two games, and Indiana and Oregon State hung around in the second half. Senior Te-Hina Paopao is one of those players South Carolina needs to get going early, but the Gamecocks have seven players who average at least eight points per game. Freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley averaged 11 minutes in the second weekend. She could be another X-factor player in this game. Staley will find the hot hands around Cardoso. 

There is regional appeal in this game in the Carolinas. Fulwiley and forward Ashlyn Watkins (9.4 ppg.) are from South Carolina. Rivers is a North Carolina native. Expect those women to be at their best in a highly-charged setting. 

The Gamecocks led by an average of 10 points at halftime in their last two games before letting their opponents back in. NC State needs the 3-pointers to fall – especially from James – to have a chance. It could be closer at halftime, but Cardoso helps the Gamecocks pull away in the fourth quarter. 

Pick: South Carolina 81, NC State 66

  • No. 1 Iowa vs. No. 3 UConn 

The conversation starts with Caitlin Clark. The Iowa guard averages 32.2 points per game in the tournament, and she is the most dynamic player in the country. She’s 20 of 54 from 3-point range in the tournament – an average of 37% that every team has to withstand. Yet it’s the fact she averaged 10 assists on top of that with a strong supporting cast that includes Kate Martin (12.1 ppg.),  Sydney Affolter (8.1 ppg.) and Gabbie Marshall (6.2 ppg.). Forward Hannah Stuelke (14.0 ppg.) battled foul trouble in the Elite Eight. Clark controls the tempo, and there is no easy stop for this offense because the Hawkeyes can have success changing speeds. Clark also can break open any game with that 3-point shooting, which she did against LSU in the Elite Eight. 

BENDER: The 3-point logo show is headed to the Final Four

UConn beat Iowa 86-79 on Nov. 27, 2022 in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament final, so there is an experience factor. Clark had 25 points in that game, but she was just 2 of 11 from 3-point range. 

Center Aaliyah Edwards (17.5 ppg.) had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and she can extend a defense outside the paint. The Huskies’ offense is precise around Paige Bueckers (21.9 ppg.), and she is coming off a 28-point performance against the Trojans. Bueckers is averaging 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the tournament, and there will be occasional 1-on-1 matchups with Clark. That will be must-see TV, but expect the Huskies to mix-up coverages on Clark outside the 3-point line and switch off screens.

UConn is shooting 37.5% from 3-point range and averages 18 attempts per game in the tournament. Geno Auriemma has the Huskies in the Final Four for the 23rd time, so the stage will not be a factor here. UConn could thrive in an underdog role. 

Yet this tournament continues to revolve around Clark – who will be a high-volume shooter but will also keep her teammates involved throughout the action. Neither team has a deep bench, so foul trouble will be a factor. Clark and Bueckers likely will not leave the floor. Expect another instant classic, but Clark hits the clutch shots in crunch time again. UConn is 0-5 S/U when their opponents score 78 points or more. That is the magic number for Iowa, and they will hit it. 

Pick: Iowa 78, UConn 76


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