Staff Picks | Women’s basketball national championship


AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

South Carolina senior guard Destiny Littleton (11), right, brings the ball up the court against Arkansas at the women’s Southeastern Conference tournament on Friday, March 4, in Nashville, Tennessee.

By The Pitt News Staff

As the women’s NCAA basketball tournament rapidly approaches, The Pitt News sports desk gives its predictions for who will be crowned as national champion. The first round will start Friday afternoon and conclude on April 3 with the National Championship game in Minneapolis.

Villanova over Texas // Dalton Coppola, Assistant Sports Editor

This is the year the perennial powerhouses will fall in the women’s tournament — neither UConn nor South Carolina will be in the final. Instead, Big East Tournament runner-up Villanova will make a Cinderella Story run through the bracket, with junior forward and Big East Player of the Year Maddy Siegrist leading the way.

The depth at head coach Denise Dillon’s disposal will prove to be the difference-maker, with first-year guards Kaitlyn Orihel and Lucy Olsen playing immediate roles. The Wildcats pull off one of the feel-good stories of the year, taking down Texas in the final.

South Carolina over UConn // Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

Unlike the men, women’s college basketball has had a clear No. 1 since the season started. South Carolina has dominated its opponents from the beginning, including 11 wins against ranked foes. It has even defeated two of the other three no. 1 seeds in this tournament — NC State on Nov. 9 and Stanford on Dec. 21.

Head coach Dawn Staley, junior forward Aliyah Boston and the Gamecocks are on a mission after their heartbreaking defeat in the SEC Championship game. Six straight wins are almost a given with this South Carolina team.

South Carolina over NC State // Brian Sherry, Staff Writer

Nobody is beating South Carolina this tournament. The Gamecocks have been dominant all season, only losing two games all year. They fell to Kentucky in the SEC championship, but will rebound quickly.

NC State has also been dominant all year. The Wolfpack plowed through ACC competition en route to a conference championship, but the Wolfpack won’t have enough talent to take down the Gamecocks and will lose in a nail-biter championship game.

UConn over Iowa // Richie Smiechowski, Senior Staff Writer

While basketball is a team game, March Madness is where the nation’s stars come to shine, and both UConn and Iowa have two of the sport’s brightest.

For UConn, sophomore guard Paige Bueckers has returned from injury. Beyond the physical capabilities, her star power and presence on the court will only add to the strength of a team that has won its last eight games by more than 20 points. Iowa, on the other hand, has the most prolific scorer in the country in sophomore guard Caitlin Clark. She’s bound to shoot the Hawkeyes to victory in their most important games.

South Carolina over UConn // Zack Gibney, Senior Staff Writer

Recency bias is the only thing that is stopping South Carolina from being a near-unanimous pick to take home the national title.

Despite a shocking loss at the hands of 11-loss Kentucky in the SEC Championship game, South Carolina has been the best team in the nation all season long. Headlined by the scoring ability of Aliyah Boston, the Gamecocks haven’t lost a game by multiple possessions all season long. That should continue in March.

There’s a reason this squad is 29-2.

South Carolina over UConn // Nick Aaron, Staff Writer

Don’t read too much into South Carolina’s recent loss in the SEC Tournament finals — it’s still the clear-cut best squad in the nation. The only team that should give the Gamecocks a run for their money is another perennial powerhouse — the UConn Huskies.

But expect the Gamecocks to topple the program that has defined women’s college basketball in recent history and begin a dynasty of their own.

South Carolina over Louisiana State // Stephen Thompson, Sports Editor

The Gamecocks play hard and do it with swagger. They fear no one and shouldn’t, because they are the best team in the country by far.

South Carolina is not just enormously talented, but tough as well. Led by their record-setting national Player of the Year candidate, junior forward Aliyah Boston, and fueled by the sting of a two-point loss to Kentucky in the SEC finals, South Carolina is ready to reclaim the women’s basketball throne, a seat it hasn’t held since 2017.

LSU — led by Kim Mulkey, a head coach with her own national title pedigree — is one of the few teams to have even come within inches of beating the Gamecocks this season, but Staley’s masterfully dominant Gamecocks will roll to their second national title ever by winning a tightly contested defensive battle in the championship game against the Tigers.

UConn over South Carolina // Kyle Saxon, Senior Staff Writer

South Carolina has clearly been the best team in the nation all season and cemented that title with a statement victory over UConn on Nov. 22. While the Huskies faced struggles due to several injuries, namely that of star guard Paige Bueckers, they are now winners of their last 10, including their last five since Bueckers returned.

While South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley will continue to dominate college basketball for decades to come, fellow hall-of-famer UConn head coach Geno Auriemma will take the rematch in the national title game, and UConn will bring home the 12th national title of his tenure.

South Carolina over UConn // Frankie Richetti, Senior Staff Writer

The Associated Press poll has ranked the Gamecocks at No. 1 from start to finish, the first team since the 2017-18 Huskies to achieve that feat.

That won’t change in March. Despite the return of UConn star Paige Bueckers, South Carolina is a battle-tested unit that will emerge as champions and lay the groundwork for a dynasty under head coach Dawn Staley.

Maryland over Iowa // Jermaine Sykes, Staff Writer

While the Gamecocks are favored to come out of the Greensboro region, I’m riding with potential Wooden Award-winner Caitlin Clark and the No. 2-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes to topple South Carolina. That said, their ride will end in the Final Four as the No. 4-seeded Maryland Terrapins under head coach Brenda Frese will conquer the Spokane region and go on to win the NCAA championship.