NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament 2021: Monday Elite 8 Bracket Odds, PicksMarch 29, 2021
Two teams will be punching a ticket to the Final Four on Monday in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
Only eight teams remain in San Antonio with the regional finals set to tip off. Top-seeded Connecticut will oppose No. 2 Baylor in the River Walk Region, while No. 3 Arizona will match up with No. 4 Indiana in the Mercado Region.
Here's what you need to know.
Elite Eight Schedule: March 29
No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 1 Connecticut (-4.5), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
No. 4 Indiana (-2) vs. No. 3 Arizona, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Bold represents the writer's pick against the spread. Betting lines courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Baylor vs. UConn
Paige Bueckers grabs the headlines for this year's UConn squad, but the Huskies' Sweet 16 victory over Iowa showcased their depth beyond the star freshman. Christyn Williams scored a game-high 27 points, Evina Westbrook nearly had a triple-double (17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds) and Aaliyah Edwards poured in 18 points over 31 minutes.
Balance is also a key feature of Baylor as Moon Ursin, NaLyssa Smith, Queen Egbo and DiJonai Carrington are all averaging double figures in points. Smith, Ursin and Carrington combined for 63 of the Lady Bears' 78 points against Michigan in the previous round.
Drawing any conclusions from Baylor's comprehensive 74-58 win over UConn last year is a fool's errand because of how much the respective rosters have turned over. The teams were originally scheduled to meet again Jan. 7, but the game was canceled for COVID-19-related reasons.
Lady Bears head coach Kim Mulkey explained how Monday's encounter is unlikely to be won with style points.
"You're looking at two programs that value defense," she said, per ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel. "I think Baylor and UConn are in the top three in the country in field goal percentage defense. Then you look at rebounding. That might explain to you why both programs are respected across the country.
"So, yeah, it could be an ugly game. When I say ugly, it could be low scoring, it could be some turnovers. Some people want to say boring. It may not be 80 and 90. I don't know."
Three-point shooting could prove to be the difference, though.
According to Her Hoops Stats, Baylor is getting just 13.1 percent of its scoring total from beyond the arc, the lowest percentage in Division I.
UConn doesn't live and die by the three-pointer, but the Huskies are 42nd in three-point percentage (35.1) and second in effective field-goal rate (57.2), per Her Hoops Stats. In the Sweet 16, they went 10-of-23 from the perimeter to complement the offense they were getting inside.
If UConn can replicate that formula, it will once again find itself in the national semifinals.
Indiana vs. Arizona
Stopping Aari McDonald will be the top priority for Indiana head coach Teri Moren.
The Arizona star exploded for 31 points against Texas A&M on Saturday. No other Wildcats player finished with more than nine points.
Indiana wasn't tested in its first two games, winning by 53 combined points. Anybody questioning the Hoosiers' capabilities got a response in their upset of top-seeded North Carolina State.
Indiana led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter before letting the Wolfpack into the game late. The Hoosiers forced 17 turnovers while turning it over only nine times themselves. They also had all five of their starters score in double figures.
In general, March is often a time when collective strength overwhelms individual brilliance. Caitlin Clark was one of the best players in the country, but UConn simply had too much. Texas suffocated Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller in the Sweet 16.
You could easily see the same thing happen to McDonald in the Elite Eight.
The senior guard shot 12-of-21 overall and 6-of-12 on three-pointers against the Aggies. In the event she regresses to her overall efficiency (40.6 percent total and 31.3 percent from long range), it will likely spell doom for the Wildcats.