DALLAS (AP) — Texas coach Karen Aston faced each of the women’s Final Four participants this season. Here, she breaks down the matchups for the NCAA Tournament semifinal games.
STANFORD – SOUTH CAROLINA
This will be a battle of two teams with distinct offensive styles.
We played Stanford in our first game and in our last game this season, and it was impressive to see the growth of that basketball team. Erica McCall grew a lot individually throughout the season. She has quite the edge about her right now that seniors tend to get at NCAA Tournament time.
The matchup between McCall and A’ja Wilson will clearly be the marquee one in this game. Everyone knows Wilson’s capability to dominate a game on both ends of the court. She’s had to do more in the NCAA Tournament with Alaina Coates out, and Dawn Staley has adjusted her style to go smaller and mismatch people. That gives South Carolina a different look than they had with the big lineup that we faced.
Both teams use a pair of point guards and whichever one can establish their pace and tempo will be important. Each point guard has different strengths and weaknesses, and it will come down to who can control the tempo and make the right decision at the right time.
Those point guards will be key to not turning the ball over. It may come down to whoever can steal baskets in transition. Stanford gained so much confidence in its win over Notre Dame when the Cardinal were able to get some easy transition points.
Finally, the X-factors to me will be Stanford’s Brittany McPhee and South Carolina’s Kaela Davis. Both were huge for their teams in the regional championship games and they could be the determining factor in who comes away with the victory.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – UCONN
I think everybody’s going to think that this is a matchup that pits UConn’s offense against Mississippi State’s defense. It makes sense because all year long, Mississippi State has hung its hat on defense and UConn has the most efficient and free-flowing offense in the country.
To me, the opposite of that is just as important. How will the Bulldogs score against the Huskies offense? Mississippi State got a special performance from Morgan William against Baylor and someone will have to step up and generate shots and points against a very underrated UConn defense.
The one way teams have been able to stay with the Huskies this year is when UConn has gotten in foul trouble. However, they can overcome that because all five of UConn’s players are so versatile defensively that they can switch on defense without losing too much. They also play such solid position defense and that makes them tough to score on.
Geno Auriemma has had a chance to try out different defenses in the NCAA Tournament with some zones and traps. I’m guessing that his in-game adjustments will keep Mississippi State off balance.
UConn has also gotten big contributions from nearly everyone on the floor on the offensive end. That makes the Huskies that much more difficult to plan for. You really can’t leave anyone open because they will find a way to beat you.
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