Starting today, the last stages of two of the US's most popular sporting tournaments will get underway.
Known together as March Madness, the NCAA, or men's and women's college, basketball tournaments are a major American sporting tradition. Not only do fans get to see potential future stars of the NBA and WNBA duke it out, but the tournaments are often full of surprises.
This has been especially true in the 2023 men's tournament, which has seen what feels like a record number of surprise victories. Who doesn't love an underdog story?
Now, after weeks of games the semifinals and finals of the NCAA college basketball tournaments are set to happen this weekend and into next week. Known as the Final Four, they are full of high stakes, great plays, and lots of emotion.
Whether you love basketball or are just a bit curious, let's get you ready for a big weekend on the hardcourts!
Women's: Can anyone stop South Carolina?
The women's Final Four games are happening tonight (Friday), with the final on Sunday.
The four teams are Iowa Hawkeyes versus the South Carolina Gamecocks and the LSU Tigers versus the Virginia Tech Hokies. All of these teams are strong teams that easily beat their opponents in the tournament so far. The one exception is LSU, who were down by one point with ten seconds left before pulling off the comeback with a thrilling 66-63 win.
Of course, every team has been led by outstanding performers. Virginia Tech's Georgia Amoore has been averaging over 20 points a game this tournament, meaning she alone is scoring about a quarter of her team's points.
And everyone is excited about the Iowa vs. South Carolina game. Iowa is a scoring powerhouse led by Caitlin Clark. Clark scored a record-breaking triple-double in Iowa's last game. She hit eight three-pointers and was so unstoppable that people have been comparing her to NBA superstar Steph Curry, one of the greatest shooters of all time.
As magnificent as Iowa has been, South Carolina is currently women's basketball's ultimate team. They are the defending champs of this tournament. They haven't lost in 42 games, including a record of 36 wins, zero losses this season. And their own star, Aliyah Boston, is maybe the best defender in all of college basketball.
No matter which team comes out on top, Iowa vs. South Carolina should be an amazing game!
Men's: It's anyone's crown to claim
If the women's Final Four is loaded with future pro stars and established powerhouse teams, the men's version is the exact opposite.
Each year, the NCAA puts the 64 teams in the tournament into four groups of 16 and ranks them by number, or seeds, 1 to 16, based on their performances all year. A 1 seed is that region's top-ranked team. And if the tournament went based on those seeds, the Final Four would feature four No.1 ranked teams. And though that exact scenario rarely happens, you're usually guaranteed at least one or two No. 1 seeds in the semifinals.
Not this year. Not even close. Not only are there no No. 1 seeds, there are no 2s or 3s either. In this year's men's Final Four, the highest ranked team is number 4 UConn. The rest are San Diego State (5), Miami (5), and Florida Atlantic (9). Who saw that coming?
It is one of the most unpredictable Final Fours ever. Only UConn has ever reached the Final Four before. In these games, basically everyone is the underdog!
Saturday gets started with Florida Atlantic playing San Diego State, followed by Miami versus UConn. Of the two games, most experts seem to feel that either Miami or UConn is the most likely team to win the championship come Monday night. But then again, you can see that the favourites haven't done very well this year! In fact, maybe the team on the biggest roll right now is the lowest seed left—Florida Atlantic have won eleven games in a row. (Also, their mascot is the Owls ... are we allOWLed to admit we're rooting for them here?)
No matter who wins these games, it'll be exciting to watch. Enjoy the games!