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No. 3 Arizona vs. No. 1 Stanford preview, picks for the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship

The Arizona Wildcats and Stanford Cardinal meet at the Alamodome in the final of 2021 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the championship game here.

Arizona Wildcats forward Sam Thomas celebrates after defeating the UConn Huskies in the national semifinals of the women’s Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Alamodome. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Update 5:30 p.m. April 4: Here are the latest updated odds and bet splits for the 2021 NCAA Women’s National Championship from DraftKings Sportsbook.

Arizona +7.5: 58% of action, 65% of bets
Stanford -7.5: 42% of action, 35% of bets


It’s an all Pac-12 battle on Sunday as Aari McDonald and the upstart No. 3 Arizona Wildcats take on Haley Jones and the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal with the NCAA Championship on the line.

These two teams twice played during the regular season, with the Cardinal beating Arizona 81-54 on New Year’s Day in Tucson, and 62-48 at Maples Pavilion on February 22nd.

We dig a bit deeper on the final women’s basketball game of the year below.

Game date: Sunday, April 4th
Game time: 6:00 p.m. ET
TV channel: ESPN
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio

No. 3 Arizona 21-5 (13-4 Pac-12)

First Round: Defeated No. 14 Stony Brook 79-44
Second Round: Defeated No. 11 BYU 52-46
Third Round: Defeated No. 2 Texas A&M 74-59
Regional Final: Defeated No. 4 Indiana 66-53
Final Four: Defeated No. 1 UConn 69-59
Leading scorer: Aari McDonald (21 ppg)
Key stat of tournament: This is Arizona’s first trip past the Elite Eight in program history.

Arizona knocked out the favorites behind another incredible performance from McDonald (26 points, seven rebounds), but what was perhaps most impressive was the team defense against one of the most efficient teams in the country.

Holding UConn to just .843 points per possession is a feat, and if they can match that again they’ll certainly have a chance against a Stanford team that has less balance offensively.

But there’s likely no path unless McDonald isn’t the best player on the floor. Win or lose she’s likely got a good chance at Most Outstanding Player of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, and her 25.6 points per game in the postseason has carried the Wildcats. When the offense breaks down, she can just score on her own in multiple ways.

They’ll also need Trinity Baptiste to stay on the floor, who only had seven points and six rebounds in 28 minutes against UConn, but provides essential rim protection. Cate Reese will also need to stay on the floor, playing just 18 minutes due to foul trouble.

No. 1 Stanford (30-2, 19-2 Pac-12)

First Round: Defeated No. 16 Utah Valley 87-44
Second Round: Defeated No. 8 Oklahoma State 73-62
Third Round: Defeated No. 5 Missouri State 89-62
Regional Final: Defeated No. 2 Louisville 78-63
Final Four: Defeated No. 1 South Carolina 66-65
Leading scorer: Kiana Williams (14.3 ppg)
Key stat of tournament: Haley Jones has 13.6 points and a 6.0 rebounds per game in the NCAA Tournament, including 24 in the defeat of USC.

The Cardinal certainly didn’t look impressive for long stretches on Friday night, and almost gave it away at the end. But they’re the favorite for a reason, even if they’re not playing their best basketball as of now.

Kiana Williams has struggled all tournament, but the senior was the only Stanford player to log 40 minutes despite being just 4-14 from the floor. Her defensive matchup with McDonald becomes the most interesting matchup of this game, and it’s possible Tara VanDerveer chooses to throw some different looks at her via more length with players like Jones.

Stanford advanced but only shot 25-60 from the field. Their 5-8 from three-point range, led by Jones who went 2-2 from downtown after entering 4-15 from long range this season, is the only reason they’re advancing.

There are also defensive questions to be asked here. South Carolina, hardly an offensive juggernaut, scored 1.03 points per possession despite going 7-25 on layups. They allowed Zia Cooke to go 5-8 from three, and there aren’t really any other perimeter options for the Gamecocks. Will McDonald be able to have the same success?

March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point spread: Stanford -8.5
Point Total: 128
Moneyline: Arizona +265, Stanford -375

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Arizona +8.5
Point total pick: Under 128
Pick to Win: Arizona

We’re going there! Aari McDonald is hotter than the asphalt of her Tucson campus in July right now, and Stanford showed yesterday that they lack cohesion defensively as well as a stopper. Who guards McDonald and how Stanford chooses to defend her (switch? trap? double on the catch?) is the most interesting question. Do they go with length and Jones (who probably can’t defend her for 40 minutes), or quickness and Williams? Can they compete with Baptiste as the rim protection in the middle?

We don’t think so. Arizona pulls an upset that’s likely great for women’s basketball, but devastating for a Stanford program that will have made 11 Final Fours since 1992 without a championship.

Of course this is the women’s tournament, where the officiating has been simply unacceptable since it started. How this game gets called will be a factor: Arizona will want to let them play, whereas Stanford will want a tighter whistle.

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