Everyone has an opinion about the women’s Final Four. And some even get paid to go on television and share them.
ESPN Studio Analyst Carolyn Peck
National Champion: Baylor
Reason for Baylor Winning National Title: The team has an ideal combination of a dominant center and a strong and assertive point guard. They can shoot from the perimeter and is a team that plays aggressive defense.
Thoughts on Baylor: The National Championship is Baylor’s to lose. They have the most dominating center in the country, but the team is not only Brittney Griner. They have demonstrated they have surrounding players that can make the key plays, score baskets and frustrate opponents with their tenacious defense.
Thoughts on Connecticut: The Huskies have talent, toughness and experience. There are no superstars on this team, but have the possibility to have a night when that one person can lead them to victory. UConn’s shortcomings are they lack a second post, as they used a four guard lineup all season. Although, Stefanie Dolson has been able to be an anchor and hold down the position on her own.
Thoughts on Notre Dame: They are a team with vengeance on the mind. The Irish were so close to holding that championship trophy last year. The team can score, and I really like the way they are playing right now, how they are moving and sharing the basketball. Skylar Diggins has demonstrated to be one of the best point guards in the country and a key to their success will be fifth-year senior Devereaux Peters.
Thoughts on Stanford: The Cardinal will be a challenge for Baylor. They are the only team in the Final Four that the Bears have not faced this season. They have a driving force in Nneka Ogwumike. She has skill, talent, energy and maturity. That is an ideal recipe to be a problem for Griner. They have three players on the roster with Final Four experience, plus a much improved Joslyn Tinkle.
ESPN Game & Studio Analyst Rebecca Lobo
National Champion: Connecticut
Reason for Connecticut Winning National Title: While I think UConn will have a lot of difficulty getting past Notre Dame, I think they have enough to win the whole thing. They played Baylor as tough as anyone in the regular season, beat Stanford, and have the experience of both playing in a National Title Game, and winning it. All the pieces would have to fall in the right place, but with Coach Auriemma guiding them, I think he might get his eighth championship.
Thoughts on Baylor: Baylor has been great all season. Griner is the toughest matchup in college basketball on both ends of the floor. We’ve never seen a player like her. She is not a one woman show, but is surrounded by outstanding talent. Destiny Williams is a perfect interior complement to Griner and Odyssey Sims is one of the most clutch shooters in the game. Add one of the country’s best coaches in Kim Mulkey, and it’s no surprise that Baylor is still undefeated.
Thoughts on Connecticut: UConn is the only team in the Final Four without a star but the Huskies somehow found their way to Denver. They did it by playing phenomenal defense and sharing the basketball on the offensive end. UConn rediscovered its identity during the BIG EAST Championship and haven’t looked back. This could be one of Coach Auriemma’s best coaching jobs.
Thoughts on Notre Dame: The Irish run beautiful offense and are the best passing team in the country. Diggins has been terrific and she has been able to take her game up a notch during the tournament. The Irish’s defensive prowess doesn’t get as much attention as their offense but they are terrific on both sides of the ball. If Natalie Achonwa can give them production like she did in the Regional Final against Maryland, Notre Dame could be cutting down the nets for the first time since 2001.
Thoughts on Stanford: Stanford is one of the most improved teams from the beginning of the season to the end. The Ogwumike sisters continue to dazzle and the improvement of Orrange has really impacted the Cardinal. When Stanford is hitting from the perimeter, they can beat any team in the country.
ESPN Studio Analyst Kara Lawson
National Champion: Baylor
Reason for Baylor Winning National Title: The Bears presence of Griner gives them the ultimate edge. As much as she has improved from a year ago, her supporting cast has improved as well. This is a well balanced team that will have to lean on that balance to win the title.
Thoughts on Baylor: They provide a unique dilemma for opposing offenses. The element of surprise or unfamiliarity with Griner’s presence changes the outcome of a few possessions a half. Their perimeter players place great pressure on their matchups and are among the best in closeout situations. Baylor is an improving outside shooting team, which makes them scary on the offensive end as well.
Thoughts on Connecticut: UConn, more than any team in the country, demands precise execution of their opponents. They are a great defensive team because of their effort and accountability. These traits carry over to the offensive end where they understand it takes multiple players to make plays for them to be successful.
Thoughts on Notre Dame: The Irish are a team with great synergy. Their lineup allows for versatility in where they attack you and which player makes plays. Rebounding is a huge key for Notre Dame in the Final Four.
Thoughts on Stanford: Nneka Ogwumike is the driving force for this team much like Griner is for Baylor. They have been the two biggest stars in this tournament. Her will and effort make it difficult to game plan for her. Amber Orrange remains a key player because of her ability to make plays and create opportunities.
ESPN Game Analyst Doris Burke
National Champion: Baylor
Thoughts on Baylor and Why They Can Win the Title: The biggest storyline all year has been whether or not anyone can beat Baylor. Sims and Griner are the best players at their respective positions. Kim Mulkey has challenged the players around those two all season, making it clear no two players can win a national title. Each has responded. This group is poised to become the first women’s teams to have 40 wins in one season!
Thoughts on Connecticut: Without a first team All-American since 2007, they have been consistent in their formula for winning all season. The nation’s hardest defense to score against is relentless. Hartley, Hayes, Mosqueda-Lewis and Dolson all must contribute consistently against a complete Notre Dame team.
Thoughts on Notre Dame: At the start of the year, I believed the Irish and the Baylor Bears would play for the title. ND has three playmaking guards in Diggins, Novasel and McBride. All are difficult to contain off the dribble and Peters has been sensational in the post.
Thoughts on Stanford: The Cardinal has the most dynamic tandem of forwards in the country with the Ogwumike sisters. Nneka Ogwumike has had a player-of-the-year type season, imposing her will and at times carrying Stanford. However, I believe Baylor wins this matchup on the strength of the defense they put on perimeter game.
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