Tomorrow, the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament kicks off, featuring Texas teams Baylor and the University of Texas at Austin.
Laken Litman is a writer for Fox Sports and author of Strong Like a Woman: 100 Game-changing Female Athletes and she joined the Texas Standard to talk about the storylines listeners should be on the lookout for. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: It looks like, according to your reporting, South Carolina is the team to beat in 2023. Why is that?
Laken Litman: Well, they first of all, have Aliyah Boston. She is one of the best players in the country. She won National Player of the Year last year. She led South Carolina to a national championship last year and it looks like she’s going to be doing the exact same thing again. They also have, of course, Dawn Staley as their head coach. People might remember Dawn Staley as she coached Team USA in the Olympics. She played for Team USA when she was a player and she is looking to lead South Carolina to the program’s third overall national championship.
You know, there’s another player you’ve highlighted as one to watch, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. Tell us a little bit about her and what to expect.
Yeah, so Caitlyn Clark might be actually better known nationwide than Aliyah Boston because of how exciting of a player she is. She’s averaging 27 points per game. And last year, Iowa was shocked in the second round. They were upset by the Cinderella team of the tournament, which was Creighton. So we didn’t get to see her go all the way to the Final Four, but she can hit three point shots from the logo. She just makes the game super exciting, has NBA and WNBA players singing her praises, and I think this year that she’s going to be able to take Iowa all the way to the Final Four. But if she does that, she will likely run into Aliyah Boston and South Carolina. That would be the best possible matchup for the tournament.
Well, you talked about the Cinderella upsets, and that’s a big part of the fun of these tournaments. I guess any potential Cinderella teams you see this year?
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think anyone saw Creighton emerging last year. They made the Elite Eight. But a lot of people are talking about South Dakota State this year. They’re a nine seed. They won the Summit League, so I don’t know. It’s one of those teams that you look at their path: they play number eight-seeded USC in the first round and it just seems like things are lining up for them to potentially be a Cinderella.
Yeah, well, of course, we are the Texas Standard, so we have to talk a little about the two Texas teams in the tournament here. You take Austin and Baylor: UT-Austin, a four seed, Baylor a seven seed. Either of these teams have a good chance of going deep into the tournament or, fingers crossed, winning it all?
Unfortunately, no. I think people might think, “wait a second,” at Baylor. I know they’ve had a lot of success in the past. Well, yes, they did when Kim Mulkey was their head coach. They last won a national championship a few years ago in the 2019 season. But Mulkey left to coach LSU a couple of years ago, and Baylor hasn’t quite regained its footing since then.
Texas was supposed to win the Big 12 Championship, but they were upset over the weekend by Iowa State. They won the Big 12 title last year. I would say that they could both win a couple of games, but I don’t anticipate them making any type of Final Four run. But the Final Four is in Dallas. So if they were to make a run, they would, of course, have huge fans cheering them on.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, now I’m sure you must have filled out a bracket for this tournament. Who do you have winning it all?
Yeah, I did. And I’ve got South Carolina repeating as national champions. I got them actually beating UConn, which is the team that they beat last year for the title. And a lot of people might be counting UConn out because their season was a little bit uncharacteristic. They’ve had so many injuries to big time players, but I think that they can make a run. However, I think South Carolina – there’s no stopping them.
Any final tips for listeners filling out their last minute brackets?
Yeah, I would say that the best matchup that I think we could possibly see would be South Carolina and Iowa in the Final Four. That would be a semifinal matchup before the national championship two days later. And just enjoy the fact that we are seeing some of the greatest women’s college basketball probably of all time with players like Aliyah Boston and Caitlin Clark. They are going head-to-head for National Player of The Year. And it’s going to be really hard for voters to decide which one is more deserving. And Boston, by the way, is expected to be the number one overall draft pick. Caitlin’s got one more year of school left. So probably next year she’d be the number one overall pick.