Women’s March Madness: How to watch Final Four games as Caitlin Clark looks to cap off historic season in style

Photo courtesy of CNN

Photo courtesy of CNN

Originally Published: 05 APR 24 05:50 ET
Updated: 05 APR 24 14:48 ET

(CNN) — Between all the shocks, the tremendous skill on show on the court and the drama off it, it’s been quite the women’s March Madness in 2024.

After the talking points of last year’s national championship game, it seemed a tough act to follow. But this year’s edition of the women’s NCAA tournament has more than lived up to the hype.

And now, there are just four teams left standing as the competition enters its semifinal stage.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a must-watch set of Final Four games.

How to watch

After weeks of grueling action, the remaining teams will go head-to-head on Friday, April 5 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio.

Both Final Four clashes will be shown on ESPN, with No. 1 South Carolina facing No. 3 NC State first at 7 p.m. E.T.

Thirty minutes after the first semifinal game has ended, No. 1 Iowa and No. 3 UConn will hit the hardwood in the same arena for a place in the national championship game.

No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 3 NC State

One is the undefeated juggernaut looking to make history while the other is the upstart that’s surprised some of the biggest names in the tournament.

The South Carolina Gamecocks enter the Final Four as the overwhelming favorite to win the national championship after a undefeated campaign in which the team has swept aside everyone and everything put before it.

After a 36-0 regular season, the Gamecocks booked their fourth-straight Final Four appearance with a 12-point win over No. 3 Oregon State.

Over its last 79 games, South Carolina is 78-1 with the lone defeat coming against Caitlin Clark’s Iowa in last year’s Final Four as the team was aiming for back-to-back college basketball titles.

During head coach Dawn Staley’s 16 seasons at the helm, South Carolina has become the dominant force in women’s basketball, but last year’s loss to Iowa still haunts her.

“Last year rocked me. It rocked me because we had a team full of players who did all the right things. All the right things,” she told reporters.

“If you could have been around that particular group of young ladies, you’d want them to win. We don’t know why, and we often try to ask God why. Why?

“Today, I stand here as our why. Doesn’t make them feel any better about them not cementing their legacy even more, but I know they’re happy and proud of this group and they’re happy and proud of South Carolina, where they chose to come to school and create a legacy.”

Standing between South Carolina and becoming the 10th ever unbeaten Division I women’s basketball champion is NC State, which has had a magical run to the semifinals.

Along the way, the No. 3 seed has beaten No. 6 Tennessee, No. 2 Stanford and No. 1 Texas. The Wolfpack’s 10-point victory over Texas booked their spot in the Final Four.

The Wolfpack’s appearance at this stage of March Madness is its first since 1998 and only the second in the school’s history.

“You know, people doubted us, and we didn’t care what the media had to say,” said NC State guard Aziaha James. “We didn’t care what anybody had to say. We showed up on the court every time, and we proved who we were.”

But NC State faces a daunting task in trying to get the better of South Carolina – the Gamecocks have trailed for a total of just 61 seconds across their four games, and never by more than two points, this tournament. But Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore says there’s still reason to be hopeful.

“Obviously, the best team in the country. But you’re not playing a four-out-of-seven series. You’re playing one game, okay?” Moore told reporters. “So we’ve just got to find a way to win one game against them, and it’s going to be a big challenge.

“But, hey, right now, you know, you could tell me we’re playing the [Portland] Trail Blazers, and I’d feel okay. We’re in the Final Four. Bring them on.”

No. 1 Iowa vs. No. 3 UConn

In the second semifinal, it’s seemingly all about Caitlin Clark, though UConn guard Paige Bueckers might disagree.

After a historic regular season, Clark has almost single-handedly propelled Iowa through March Madness, culminating with her 41-point performance against LSU in the Elite Eight.

Not only did that dominant outing banish some demons from last year’s title game, but it also cemented Clark’s status as the most dominant player in women’s college basketball at the moment with UConn Huskies coach Geno Auriemma saying, “We don’t plan on stopping her because I tried calling all the other coaches that have stopped her, and none of them answer the phone. So we’re going to have to find a different way to win than stopping Caitlin Clark.”

Only one final accolade remains for Clark before she presumably heads to the WNBA: to win a national championship.

After falling at the final hurdle last time around, the three-point specialist once again has an excellent chance to win that so-far elusive title – for both Iowa and herself – with just two games standing between her and college basketball’s most prestigious trophy.

“There’s still two more [games] there to get,” she said on Monday. “That’s what makes the Final Four so fun. Anybody can take it. Anybody can win it.

“I think we have the power to do that.”

Clark will take to the court in the Final Four against the Huskies, a team which she thought she was going to play for growing up.

Clark admitted last month that she idolized former UConn star Maya Moore and wanted to follow in her footsteps as a result.

“I wanted to be just like her. I thought I was going to go to UConn when I was growing up, but obviously, that’s not what happened,” Clark told reporters last month.

“Caitlin, obviously, is a tremendous player, generational player, but if Caitlin really wanted to come to UConn, she would have called me and said, ‘Coach, I really want to come to UConn,’” Auriemma said to reporters Tuesday.

“So I don’t think that either of us lost out. I think she made the best decision for her, and it’s worked out great. We made the decision we thought we needed to make,” he added.

“I try to lock into who fits with us, try to lock in on them early. That’s what happened with us and Paige. We felt really, really comfortable with that, and we went with it.”

Though the specter of what could have been hovers over the game, the Huskies are formidable in their quest for a record-extending 12th national championship with their own star guard.

Bueckers has been one of the standout players of March Madness so far, putting her team on her back during their run to a 23rd Final Four appearance.

The 22-year-old has been working her way back from a lost season last year due to a serious knee injury and has been hitting her stride as the tournament has progressed.

She has played every minute of UConn’s last three games in March Madness, scoring 32, 24 and 28 points in an impressive run of performances.

Arguably her most impressive performance came in UConn’s Elite Eight clash with the No. 1 USC Trojans, when she finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to qualify the Huskies for the semifinals.

Although she has already announced she will return to UConn next season rather than declare for the WNBA draft, Bueckers is one of the stars of the Final Four and will prove a tough obstacle for Iowa to overcome.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.