Women’s National Championship Game Preview: Arizona vs. Stanfordby Zach Gotlieb April 4, 2021 0 comments
The stage is set. The final dance is ready, and the country will get to see two conference opponents duke it out for eternal glory. The first-seeded Stanford Cardinal will face off with the third-seeded Arizona Wildcats this Sunday for the NCAA Women’s National Championship.
It’s unknown what Bill Walton put in the water for the PAC-12, but he was right when he said they are the “conference of champions.” Three of the eight teams in the Final Four combined between the men’s and women’s tournament are from the region, with the women’s tournament coming down to a championship of two conference rivals.
Despite a heavily scrutinized beginning to the tournament, these women have put together an amazing show. The tournament has had every embodiment of what March Madness is all about. They get to close it out with the perfect championship game.
Coming off a tough game against South Carolina in the Final Four, Stanford looks much more battle-tested by adding a gritty win to their resume. The last few minutes of this game were crazy and left people shaking their heads, saying “I love March.” The Gamecocks missed a buzzer-beater attempt that gave the Cardinal the one-point win and let them try to finish off the dance by cutting down the nets.
Stanford was among the heavyweight favorites to win the tournament, compiling a 30-2 record with all but four wins by double-digits. They have done so with an impressive combination of scoring and defense.
Senior guard Kiana Williams is the leader of the offense for the Cardinal this season. She is averaging 14 points per game on 41 percent shooting from the field while leading the team with just over two assists per game. Williams leads an offense with three players averaging double-digit points, making for a well-balanced attack in which any of them can take over the scoring on a given night.
Defensively, the Cardinal are a strong team, holding opponents to just 33 percent shooting per game on the season. They are anchored by freshman Cameron Brink with a team-leading 2.7 blocks and she is second in rebounds with 6.6 (4.4 defensive) per game.
No matter how you look at this team, they are going to be tough to beat. They have rolled through the tournament and are looking to finish off their incredible season.
After an impressive win against one of the heavyweight favorites in UConn, Arizona has to be feeling really good going into this championship. They put together a complete game of suffocating defense and solid scoring to tame the Huskies’ high-powered attack. Now they will try to keep the momentum going into the title game as the heavy underdog.
What a run for the Wildcats. Adia Barnes’ squad had an impressive season, putting together a 21-5 record. Everything they are about was on full display against Connecticut. Tough team defense and a good offense with several women that can really score.
When you talk Arizona offense, the first player to come to mind is senior Aari McDonald. What an incredible campaign she put together in her final season in Tucson. She leads the team in scoring and assists with 20.5 and 4.1 per game, respectively. McDonald is the true epicenter of this offense and has been a consistent dominating force on that end. She excels with the ball in her hands as a scorer and facilitator. She can do it all.
Defensively, McDonald is also a powerful force. She consistently takes on the top guard on the opposing team and does a great job, nightly, while also leading the team in total rebounds (second in defensive) per game. While she excels and may be the player everyone is watching try to slow down Williams, don’t let that take away from the rest of the team.
Arizona’s defensive scheme is based on a team defense style. It takes a buy-in from everyone on the floor to make that work, and they have it. Every player on this team can put pressure on the ball and make plays.
Lines courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
The Cardinal come into this game as heavy favorites. They are -375 on the moneyline.
The Wildcats come in as the underdog with a +265 moneyline.
The spread has Stanford as 8.5-point favorites.
The game as a whole has an over/under set at 128 with -110 on the over and -113 on the under
The Wait Is Over
We made it. The final game to close out an incredible season. Arizona is going to need a different type of effort as they face the Cardinal for the third time this season, but as McDonald and head coach Barnes said in their postgame interview, “we’re built different.”
Stanford is 2-0 against Arizona with double-digit wins in both games, but say it together: THIS IS MARCH. Anything can happen, and we’re set for an incredible championship game to close out an incredible women’s tournament.
The championship game is on Sunday, April 4th at 6 p.m. EST from the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX. It will be broadcast on ESPN.