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Women’s NCAA Tournament Championship Preview: Stanford Cardinal vs. Arizona Wildcats

by April 4, 2021

In a wild last 48 hours, we witnessed one of the most exciting finishes and one of the most dominating upsets of the tournament. Stanford was a tip-in away from being sent home after a back-and-forth battle with South Carolina. Arizona never trailed as Aari McDonald lead the Wildcats to a Final Four victory over Paige Bueckers and Co. 

Now, it comes down to one last game. Stanford and Arizona face off for all the marbles and the opportunity to cement themselves into college basketball greatness. This is the third time these two teams face off this season, with the Cardinal leading the series 2-0. The championship game is wildly different from regular season play, however, and anything can happen. Let’s break down this championship matchup.

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

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Details

  • Lines: DraftKings has the odds at Stanford -9.0; O/U 128.0
  • Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
  • Time: Sunday, 5:00 PM CT
  • Television: ESPN

Overview

While Stanford may hold two wins over Arizona, this Wildcat team is a whole new monster than in the regular season. Aari McDonald has been consistently playing at a ridiculous level this tournament. Against UConn, her defense shined as she tallied 26 points in the victory. In Arizona’s pair of losses to Stanford this year, McDonald scored 12 points and 20 points, respectfully. If Adia Barnes and Co. hope to pull off another miraculous upset, their star has to have one of the best games of her life.

Arizona as a whole has been playing elevated defense of late as well, holding Uconn to 59 points. There is a chance their energy might be zapped for the championship game, but Stanford went through a challenging physical and emotional game as well. If Arizona can get out ahead early and control the game like they did vs. UConn, they will be in solid shape for the final five minutes of the game, especially with a player like Aari McDonald.

But while Arizona, Adia Barnes, and Aari McDonald offer a more exciting storyline, Stanford remains the big favorite, and they have proven their ability to handle Arizona this season. The Cardinal have a plethora of scoring options and have been money from deep not only this tournament but all season. Arizona’s defense from beyond the arc is decent, but nothing spectacular, as they allow opponents to shoot at a 31.0% clip from deep.

Bottom Line

What this game might come down to is how each team rebounds on either side of the floor. Stanford is a better team on the boards, and it showed against South Carolina. It will be vital for Arizona to limit the defensive boards and thus limit the Stanford transition game, as well as limit the offensive boards and therefore limit second chance looks for the Cardinal.

Arizona has been a surprise all tournament. Her Hoop Stats, a women’s college basketball statistical website, gave Arizona a 36.5% chance at beating Texas A&M, a 33.2% chance of beating Indiana, and just a 9.3% chance of taking down UConn. They’ve tagged Stanford as an 11-point favorite with an 83% chance of winning-it-all.

But Arizona won’t go down without a fight. Even if this game gets away from them, they will believe they are in it until the final buzzer. Stanford’s starting five may be better than Arizona’s, but Aari McDonald is the best player on the court. I really expect, and hope, this to be a close game. I see Stanford’s scoring to be too much for Arizona in the end and for them to be your 2021 National Champions, but Arizona will cover along the way.

Pick: Arizona +9.0

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Ryan Coleman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Ryan, check out his archive.

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