The No. 1 seed Connecticut Huskies face the No. 3 seed Arizona Wildcats in the Final Four on ESPN at 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday. The Huskies are making their 13th-consecutive appearance in the Final Four but have not advanced to the national championship game since 2016. The Wildcats, who are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005, are in the Final Four for the first time in program history.
UConn’s Paige Bueckers is the first-ever freshman to win the AP Player of the Year award and is the obvious focus on a 29-1 team as she leads UConn with 20.1 points and 5.8 assists. This team boasts some outstanding players. Christyn Williams, Bueckers’ backcourt teammate, was named to the All-Big East First Team, scoring 16.1 points. Olivia Nelson-Ododa was named the Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the All-Big East Second Team. Nelson-Ododa contributed 12.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per contest.
For the Wildcats, it’s all about Aari McDonald, who is the 2021 Pac-12 Player of the Year and has been named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year the last two seasons. McDonald is averaging 20.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. In Arizona’s last two games, she has scored 31 and 33 points, respectively. Her 33 points against Indiana accounted for half of the Wildcats’ point total for the game. Cate Reese, the Wildcats’ up-and-coming forward, contributes 11.2 points and 5.4 rebounds. Although they don’t average in double figures, Trinity Baptiste and Sam Thomas are two quality players that can score and play solid defense.
The Huskies look like overwhelming favorites, especially since they have just one loss on the season. For Arizona to stay in this game, consistency in offensive execution will be a key factor. It will be hard to get stops against a team this talented, so the Wildcats will need to keep pace on the scoreboard.
No. 3 seed Arizona Wildcats (26-4, 14-2 Pac-12) vs. No. 1 seed UConn Huskies (29-2, 19-2 Big East)
When: Friday, April 2 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: The Alamodome in San Antonio, TX
How to watch/listen: ESPN/Radio: 97.9 ESPN (Connecticut)
Key to the matchup: Paige Bueckers vs. Aari McDonald is a great matchup. Whether or not they will be guarding each other remains to be seen, but each player will be relied on heavily not only in scoring but in the execution of the offense. Each team feeds off of the performance of its star player.