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Sunday, April 18, 2021

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament 2021: Tuesday Elite 8 Bracket Odds, Picks

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    UConn will be making its 13th consecutive appearance in the Final Four of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, while Arizona is in it for the first time in program history.

    But which two other teams will be joining the Huskies and Wildcats to keep their dreams of playing for a national championship alive?

    On Tuesday, the final two matchups of the Elite Eight will be taking place in San Antonio. No. 1 South Carolina will face No. 6 Texas, while No. 1 Stanford is up against No. 2 Louisville.

    The Huskies kept their Final Four streak alive by defeating No. 2 Baylor 69-67 on Monday. Then, the Wildcats joined them in the national semifinals by defeating No. 4 Indiana, 66-53.

    It’s possible Arizona will be the only non-No. 1 seed in the Final Four, should South Carolina and Stanford both make it there with victories.

    Here’s a look at Tuesday’s schedule, along with odds and predictions for both games.

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    No. 1 South Carolina (-6.5) vs. No. 6 Texas, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

    No. 1 Stanford (-9.5) vs. No. 2 Louisville, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Picks in bold against the spread. Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    At the end of the regular season, South Carolina suffered three losses in a span of seven games, including its finale. Then, the Gamecocks got things back on track, and they’ve been on a roll during tournament play.

    They defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia to win the SEC tournament, and it’s opened the NCAA tourney with victories over No. 16 Mercer, No. 8 Oregon State and No. 5 Georgia Tech. They have won each of their past three games by at least 11 points.

    But if South Carolina is going to continue its run, it will have to get past No. 6 Texas, which is coming off a big upset victory over No. 2 Maryland. The Longhorns edged the Terrapins 64-61 in the Sweet 16, after they had opened the tournament with wins over No. 11 Bradley and No. 3 UCLA.

    It’s been an impressive showing for Texas after it had lost three of five games heading into the tournament, which included a loss to Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 tourney. However, South Carolina is going to be the most difficult opponent it has faced yet.

    The two head coaches in this matchup are quite familiar with one another. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley has gone up against Texas’ Vic Schaefer plenty in the past, as the latter was head coach at Mississippi State (one of the Gamecocks’ SEC rivals) from 2012-20.

    “We’ve had our battles in the SEC, and Vic’s done a great job at Texas in his first year to get to this point,” Staley said, per Mechelle Voepel of ESPN. “It’s probably a great thing to have some familiarity with Texas and Vic, especially at this stage, because you get one day to prepare. He’s trying to outfox us, and we’re trying to outfox him.”

    While it could be a competitive game early, South Carolina has enough talent to not only win but also to do so by at least seven points to cover the spread. The Gamecocks will continue to rely on the talented trio of sophomore guard Zia Cooke (15.6 points per game), sophomore forward Aliyah Boston (13.9) and junior guard Destanni Henderson (12.0).

    It will be the third time that South Carolina has reached the Final Four in program history, with the first two times being in 2015 and 2017.

    Prediction: South Carolina 78, Texas 68

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Stanford has had plenty of success under head coach Tara VanDerveer. Since 2008, the Cardinal have made it to the Final Four seven times, with their last appearance coming in 2017.

    And there’s a strong chance Stanford will make it back there this year. But first, it needs to overcome a significant challenge in the Elite Eight, where it faces No. 2 Louisville, which has lost only three games this season and has defeated No. 15 Marist, No. 7 Northwestern and No. 6 Oregon to get to this point.

    Meanwhile, the Cardinal are 28-2 this season, opening the NCAA tournament with victories over No. 16 Utah Valley, No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 5 Missouri State. They’ve won each of those three games by at least 11 points and haven’t suffered a loss since Jan. 22, recording 17 consecutive wins entering this matchup.

    “They want to play together, they want to keep it going,” VanDerveer said, per Janie McCauley of the Associated Press. “The teams that go the furthest are ones that just don’t want it to end.”

    While Louisville is a solid team, Stanford is a 9.5-point favorite for this matchup. And that’s because it has been nearly unbeatable this season, particularly over the past two months, which led to it receiving the No. 1 overall seed for this tournament.

    Don’t expect the Cardinal to slow down now. They have a balanced lineup, with four players averaging double-digit points, including senior guard Kiana Williams’ team-high 14.5. So while Louisville could keep things close early, Stanford is likely to pull away late.

    Once the Cardinal reach the Final Four, it’s possible they’ll have to beat two other No. 1 seeds (South Carolina and UConn) to win the national title. But they’re at least going to have the opportunity to try to do so.

    Prediction: Stanford 74, Louisville 62

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