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March Madness lives up to the hype, and so do its top Canadians | CBC Sports

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Last night’s NCAA women’s basketball quarterfinal showdown between Iowa and LSU did not disappoint. With a spot in the Final Four on the line, Iowa sensation Caitlin Clark delivered a standout performance, scoring 41 points with 12 assists to lead the Hawkeyes to a win 94-87 win in a rematch from last year against the defending champions landmark national title game.

LSU star Angel Reese, who talks trash (or at least Trash gesturing) Foil for Clark last year, was also excellent. The 6-foot-10 forward scored 17 points and grabbed 20 rebounds despite re-aggravating her ankle injury in the second quarter, when her dominance at the basket put the Tigers ahead by four points.

And of course LSU coach Kim Mulkey did Kim Mulkey things. Colorful pants suit? Check. Fiery side hustles? Check. The full Mulkey experience was featured following the Don Cherry coach’s long-awaited profile in the Washington Post finally dropped over the weekend. (It turned out to be a nuanced portrait of a complicated person, rather than the “hit piece” Mulkey had prepared her supporters for.)

After defeating LSU, Clark will now look to defeat the winningest program in women’s college basketball history. Their opponent Friday night in Cleveland is Connecticut, which is making its incredible 15th trip to the Final Four in the last 16 tournaments – a run that includes six of the school’s record 11 women’s national championships. The Huskies are hungry, too: Their last title came eight years ago, and their streak of 14 straight Final Fours ended with a loss in the Sweet 16 last year.

Despite a series of injuries this season, UConn looks like UConn again for one big reason: Paige Bueckers is back. Three years ago, the high-scoring 6-foot-1 guard was a kind of proto-Caitlin Clark and won the National Player of the Year award as a freshman – something that had never happened before in women’s soccer. But a knee injury cost her much of her sophomore season before another (offseason) injury to the same knee sidelined her for the entire 2022-23 season. Finally healthy, Bueckers averaged 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the tournament after leading UConn to an 80-73 victory over freshman phenom JuJu Watkins’ USC in the Elite Eight.

Buecker’s main buddy – and the best Canadian player in women’s college basketball – is forward Aaliyah Edwards. She is UConn’s second-leading scorer (17.6 points per game) and leading rebounder (9.3) since the start of the season. The resilient senior, who is expected to be selected early in the upcoming WNBA draft, had 24 points and six rebounds in the Final Four win over USC.

The winner of Friday’s UConn-Iowa match will likely face top-seeded South Carolina for the national championship on Sunday. The Gamecocks have an absurd 72-1 record since the start of the 2022-23 season, having reached the Final Four undefeated for the second straight year. Last year, Clark defeated them by 41 points in the national semifinals. South Carolina hopes to avoid another such upset against NC State, the weakest team in the Final Four.

The men have been in the shadows of the women since Clark burst into the spotlight last spring. But the boys’ Final Four also looks pretty interesting – including a literally gigantic matchup with the best Canadian in all of college basketball.

VIEW | Edey from Canada attributes the family’s support to their continued success:

Canadian Zach Edey dominates NCAA March Madness

Canadian Zach Edey delivers a dominating performance to lead Purdue into the final Sweet 16 of NCAA men’s March Madness. Although he is now a rising star, Edey attributes much of his success to the continued support of his family.

Zach Edey, the No. 2 leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder in NCAA men’s ball this season, is the favorite to repeat as Player of the Year after leading Purdue to its first Final Four since 1980. The 7-foot-4, 300-pound center went out for 40 points and 16 boards (plus one emotional one). F-bomb after the game) in the boilermaker 72-66 win over Tennessee in the Elite Eight. Forgive the big man for getting so excited: Last year, his team became only the second No. 1 seed ever to lose to 16 in the first round. Now they are just two wins away from a national championship, with Edey averaging a whopping 30 points and 16 rebounds in the tournament.

On Saturday night in Phoenix, Edey will go toe-to-toe (very tall) with DJ Burns, Cinderella NC State’s wonderfully rotund 6-foot-2, 275-pound folk hero. The highly skilled big man, who averaged 13 points this season, exploded for 29 as the Wolf Pack defeated Duke in the Elite Eight.

NC State is seeded 11th, its lowest ever to reach the Final Four. And this is the Wolf Pack’s first trip to the national semifinals since legendary coach Jim Valvano’s shocking title-game upset of Houston in 1983.

The winner of the Purdue-NC State game will likely face top-ranked juggernaut UConn for the title on Monday night. The Huskies appear well-prepared to become the first returning men’s champions in 17 years, having beaten their four opponents by an average margin so far 28 points. Standing in the way of a return to the national title game is Alabama, a fourth-seeded Final Four newcomer that won the group’s weakest region.

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