The Women’s Final Four tips off Friday evening at 6:00 p.m., but if you haven’t been following the game all season, you might not know who the key players are.
We take a look at who to keep an eye on for the second semifinal between the top seeds in two of the quadrants, the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks and No. 1 Stanford Cardinal.
Right now at DraftKings Sportsbook the Cardinal are a 6-point favorite, with the total sitting at 133.5.
South Carolina Gamecocks
For a team that relies mostly on their defense, Cooke often takes a lot of shots she’s forced to put up because the USC offense doesn’t always have a ton of flow. Cooke is the leading score for the Gamecocks at 15.6 points per game, but that comes at just 38.8% from the field.
Stanford should be the more efficient team offensively this evening, so in those spots when someone needs to create a bucket off the bounce, Cooke is going to need to find a way to put the ball in the hole. During the season, remember that USC held opponents to a stifling 79.3 points per 100 possessions, one of the best rates in all of college basketball.
There’s a battle in the post in this game, and it starts with one of the nation’s leading rebounders in Boston. At 6′ 5″ she pulls down 11.4 caroms per game, adding in 13.8 points per contest as well. Most posts in the women’s game are more efficient than her 49.1% from the field, but where Boston really makes a difference is anchoring the defense. She’ll have her hands full protecting the rim against the players below in perhaps the key matchup of this game.
She doesn’t get the hype of players like Paige Bueckers of UConn and Caitlin Clark of Iowa, but their USA Basketball teammate in Jones is just as dynamic on the floor. As a 6’1 guard Jones averages 12.7 points, 7.5 rebounds (leads her team), and 3.0 assists per game, but her highlight reel is as good as anyone in the women’s game. She’s not a three-point shooter, but can score off the bounce as well as anyone in the country.
Stanford goes small and plays plenty of positionless basketball, and that means Williams is likely going to have to make shots tonight to win. The 5’8 senior runs Tara VanDerveer’s team with 14.5 points per game, but makes just 41.5% of her shots. She averages 6.8 three-point attempts per game at a 38.6% clip, and those will need to go in tonight to help stretch the USC defense. No team contests better than USC, and the ball movement will need to get Williams open looks if Stanford is to advance.