Home News UCLA, CU stand in way of Caitlin Clark v Angel Reese

UCLA, CU stand in way of Caitlin Clark v Angel Reese


UCLA, CU stand in way of Caitlin Clark v Angel Reese

The broader women’s basketball world, including network partners ABC and ESPN, is breathlessly waiting on an NCAA Tournament rematch between LSU and Iowa, the 2023 finalists.

Caitlin Clark vs. Angel Reese with a Kim Mulkey sideshow would almost certainly generate an audience that blasts past  the 4.9-million viewers who tuned in ESPN for Iowa’s second-round game against West Virginia.

Two teams stand in the way of that Elite Eight showdown: UCLA and Colorado, two of the Pac-12’s record-tying five teams in the Sweet 16.

Both Pac-12 teams are underdogs, although No. 2 UCLA is higher seeded than No. 3 LSU.

Colorado, which beat LSU to start this season, has a Sweet 16 rematch with Iowa, which eliminated the Buffaloes 87-77 last year.

No. 1 seed USC and No. 2 Stanford are favored over No. 5 Baylor and No. 3 North Carolina State, respectively, while No. 3 Oregon State is an underdog against No. 2 Notre Dame.

The Pac-12 also had five teams in the Sweet 16 in 2019, when Oregon advanced to the Final Four and Stanford to the Elite Eight, and in 2017. Three Pac-12 teams reached the Elite Eight or beyond in 2016 and 2018.

But last year, the Pac-12 was wiped out in the Sweet 16, so there are no guarantees starting Friday given the increased parity, visibility and pressure in the women’s game.

Fifteen of the top-20 teams in the final Associated Press poll have reached the Sweet 16, with seventh-ranked Ohio State as the exception.

In addition to the Pac-12’s quintet, the ACC (3), SEC (2), Big Ten (2) and Big 12 (2) all have multiple Sweet 16 teams.

Here are Hotline predictions for the Sweet 16 after we went 14-0 on Pac-12 picks in the first week of the tournament.


No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Oregon State 

Notre Dame has won 10 consecutive games, including a 55-51 victory over North Carolina State in the ACC championship game. The Irish won comfortably over Kent State and Mississippi in the NCAAs and feature one of the nation’s top freshmen in guard Hannah Hidalgo, who’s averaging 22.9 points (fifth nationally) and 5.6 assists.

Oregon State is 5-4 in its last nine games, in part because scoring and rebounding leader Raegan Beers missed four games with a broken nose. The Beavers are 4-1 since Beers’ return, the lone loss coming to Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament. They beat Eastern Washington and Nebraska in NCAAs.

This could be the lowest-scoring Sweet 16 game involving a Pac-12 team. Oregon State leans into defense and is capable of holding Notre Dame well below its 79-point average.

If so, a close game would come down to clutch shooting from Hidalgo, Oregon State’s Talia von Oelhoffen and others. The winner could meet undefeated South Carolina in the Elite Eight.

Pick: Notre Dame

No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 3 N.C. State 

Stanford needed overtime to repel Iowa State in the second round after losing to USC in the Pac-12 finals. So questions remain about the Pac-12’s regular season champion, particularly whether the backcourt is steady enough and if Pac-12 Player of the Year Cameron Brink can avoid foul trouble. Kiki Iriafen is coming off a 41-point, 16-rebound game against the Cyclones that covered for Brink only playing 23 minutes.

N.C. State is 6-3 since Feb. 22 and beat Chattanooga and Tennessee in the NCAAs. The Wolfpack is 4-1 against Colorado, Florida State and Duke while Stanford is 2-1 against those common opponents. All five Wolfpack starters average double-figure in points, led by guard Aziaha James (16.0 ppg).

Stanford gets a jump start on its 2024-25 move to the ACC with its first meeting against N.C. State since 1994. The Cardinal has reached the Elite Eight in 14 of the last 19 NCAA Tournaments and could play looser in Portland than at home, where the pressure was intense to avoid a second consecutive second-round loss.

Pick: Stanford


No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 3 LSU 

Lauren Betts returned from a foot injury that kept her out of the first round in time to help UCLA edge Creighton 67-63 and earn a second straight crack at its first Elite Eight since 2018. The Bruins have never played in the Final Four, a worthy goal in the school’s final Pac-12 season. UCLA won handily over Cal Baptist in the first round even without the 6-foot-7 Betts.

LSU won 10 in a row before losing to South Carolina 79-72 in the SEC finals. The Tigers downed Rice and Middle Tennessee in sub-regional play even with the potential distraction from coach Kim Mulkey’s public threats against the Washington Post if the newspaper publishes what she is projecting will be a “false story about me.”

UCLA guards Charisma Osborne and Londynn Jones were 2-of-12 shooting for a combined five points against Creighton and need to be more productive. The matchup between Betts and Angel Reese will be fascinating.

Pick: UCLA

No. 1 Iowa vs. No. 5 Colorado 

Even with college basketball’s career scoring leader Caitlin Clark (31.8 ppg this season), Iowa is vulnerable at times: The Hawkeyes lost in February to Nebraska and Indiana and needed overtime to beat Nebraska in the Big Ten finals. They beat Holy Cross in the first round of the NCAAs, then had to work hard on a low-scoring night to get by West Virginia 64-54.

Colorado turned the page from its 2-6 finish to beat Drake and Kansas State and set up a rematch against Iowa. The Buffaloes had four players in double figures against Iowa last year in the Sweet 16, and all four are back. Colorado is seeking its first Elite Eight opportunity since 2002.

It’s hard to pick against Clark, and it will take a momentous effort from defensive specialist Kindyll Wetta and others simply to hold her below 30 points. Iowa does not have Monika Czinano this time around to defend against CU’s Aaronette Vonleh, an under-the-radar difference that could prove significant if the Buffs keep the score down.

Pick: Colorado

No. 1 USC vs. No. 5 Baylor 

USC kept on rolling in the first two rounds with decisive wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Kansas. The Trojans are on a seven-game winning streak and have won 14 of 15 since early February. Freshman JuJu Watkins is second nationally in scoring (26.9 ppg) behind Clark with the possibility of a Final Four matchup between them.

Baylor knocked out No. 4 Virginia Tech 75-72 in the second round and have won eight of their last nine games, the exception being a loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 semifinals.

With McKenzie Forbes, two other Ivy League transfers and post player Rayah Marshall, USC is significantly more than Watkins, which accounts for the long stretch of winning. Marshall could be impactful against the smaller Bears.

Pick: USC

Utah AD: ‘We should never have been there’

Utah, which has been lauded over two seasons for Alissa Pili being a role model for the Polynesian and Indigenous communities, was the victim of racial hate last week prior to its NCAA Tournament game.

Due to lack of hotel space in Spokane, the Utes were assigned to a hotel 35 miles away in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. While traveling to and from dinner with band and cheer members on Thursday, the Utes were verbally abused by racial epithets and threats from occupants of vehicles passing them.

A police report was filed then the team moved to a hotel in Spokane the next day.

Utah beat South Dakota State in the first round, then lost Monday to Gonzaga. Afterwards, coach Lynne Roberts addressed a question about what led to the hotel switch.

“It was a distraction and upsetting,” Roberts said. “This should be a joyous time for our program. To have a black eye on this experience is unfortunate.

“There is so much diversity on a college campus so you’re just not exposed to that very often. But racism is real. It happens. It’s awful.”

Utah deputy athletic director Charmelle Green told KSL.com that the Utes “were actually rather taken aback by our accommodations,” in Coeur d’Alene. Gonzaga did not know for sure that it would host a women’s sub-regional until the NCAA field was announced March 17.

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