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A look at each women’s Final Four team, through advanced stats

Caitlin Clark Iowa Caitlin Clark - Getty Images

It’s a women’s Final Four full of stars. Caitlin Clark, Kamilla Cardoso and Paige Bueckers on the court, plus Dawn Staley and Geno Auriemma on the sidelines.

After Iowa and LSU played to a record-setting TV audience in the regional finals, the Hawkeyes are joined by South Carolina, UConn and North Carolina State for the season’s final act. While much of the focus going into Friday night’s semifinals is on a few individual stars, getting here was a team effort.

Here’s a look at what the advanced stats — tracked online by Her Hoop Stats (HHS) — tell us about the four teams competing for the championship.

HHS Rank: 1

Strengths: Defensively, the Gamecocks are in a class by themselves. With the 6-foot-7 Cardoso protecting the basket, South Carolina is holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 36.4, the top defensive mark in the nation. The Gamecocks aren’t quite as dominant on the offensive glass as last year, but they’re playing at a faster tempo and have become more efficient overall on offense. An inability to shoot 3-pointers cost them in the Final Four last year, but that’s no longer a weakness with South Carolina making them at a 39% clip in 2023-24.

Weaknesses: The Gamecocks shoot just 69% from the free throw line and don’t do a particularly good job getting there.

In This Tournament: That improvement from beyond the arc came in handy for the Gamecocks in their one close game in this tournament. They shot 8 of 16 in a 79-75 win over Indiana in the Sweet 16.

IOWA (33-4)
HHS Rank: 2

Strengths: You can see how Clark impacts the team stats. Iowa ranks No. 1 in offensive rating and effective field goal percentage. The Hawkeyes are also at the top in 2-point field goal percentage, with Clark’s passing ability setting up easy opportunities for teammates.

Weaknesses: This is the weakest defensive team left, even when you account for Iowa’s fast pace. The Hawkeyes are 22nd in the country in defensive rating. They’ll be trying to win in spite of that, counting on simply outscoring their opponents more than shutting them down.

In This Tournament: Only West Virginia, in the second round, has been able to slow down Iowa’s offense, and that came on a night the Hawkeyes shot 5 of 22 from 3-point range. Clark had only three assists in that game.

UCONN (32-5)
HHS Rank: 3

Strengths: The Huskies are well balanced, ranking fifth in offensive rating and second in defensive rating. Opponents are shooting only 36% from the field against them.

Weaknesses. UConn doesn’t get to the line very often. The Huskies average 15.3 attempts per game, and every other Final Four team is at 18.9 or better.

In This Tournament: UConn has held all four opponents under 34% from the field. The Huskies finally got to the line a good amount against Southern California in the regional final, but they shot just 17 of 27.

N.C. STATE (31-6)
HHS Rank: 14

Strengths: The Wolfpack have the fourth-lowest foul rate in the nation, although given South Carolina’s spotty free throw shooting, that might not be much of an advantage for their semifinal. N.C. State has also done a good job on the defensive boards, which could be a more important asset.

Weaknesses: The Wolfpack are just 25th in offensive rating. They aren’t great at forcing turnovers or getting offensive rebounds, and for a team with fairly middling shooting percentages, N.C. State’s inability to create extra chances could be a problem.

In This Tournament: Outside shooting was big for the Wolfpack the last two games. N.C. State went 16 of 35 from 3-point range against Texas and Stanford. The Wolfpack, however, had only four offensive rebounds against the Longhorns, six against Stanford and three in the second around against Tennessee.