If Sunday night’s women’s NCAA Tournament final (6 p.m. EST, ESPN) is anything like the pair of semifinal games that preceded it, we’re all in for one final treat.
Top-seeded Stanford will face upstart No. 3 seed Arizona, led by coach Adia Barnes and senior guard Aari McDonald. Arizona knocked off powerhouse Connecticut with a decisive victory Friday night.
A final Goliath stands in their way of pulling off one of the more remarkable turnarounds in women’s basketball history (the Wildcats went 6-24 in 2017-18).
Of course, Stanford is coached by the legendary Tara VanDerveer. Sophomore forward Haley Jones, “the unicorn,” is a force on both ends of the court. The Cardinal escaped fellow No. 1 seed South Carolina in the semifinals and are trying to end a championship drought that extends back to 1992. Arizona has never played for the women’s championship, and the program snapped a 16-year tournament drought in 2021.
The game will cap a tournament that has been as exciting on the court as it was essential — players and coaches have highlighted the inequities that remain in college athletics (and the sports world at large) all month long.
Follow along with USA TODAY Sports as Stanford and Arizona battle for the 2021 women’s NCAA Tournament title.
For viewing, betting, matchup guides: GO HERE.
Stanford’s Kiana Williams soaks in pregame scene
ESPN’s Holly Rowe posted a tweet of Cardinal guard Kiana Williams stretching alone on the court more than an hour before the game.
Predictions for women’s championship game
Three staff members have made their best guesses how tonight will go. Here’s how they see it going down:
Lindsay Schnell: Stanford 84, Arizona 73
Heather Tucker: Stanford 77, Arizona 70
Nancy Armour: Arizona 63, Stanford 60
Check out their explanations.
Adia Barnes not apologizing
In the moments after the UConn upset, ESPN cameras captured Barnes leading her team in an “enthusiastic” celebration featuring a finger.
Here’s was she had to say about it all (from Saturday morning):
“I honestly had a moment with my team, and I thought it was a more intimate huddle,” Barnes said. “I said to my team something that I truly felt and I know they felt, and it just appeared different on TV, but I’m not apologizing for it because I don’t feel like I need to apologize. It’s what I felt with my team at the moment. I wouldn’t take it back. We’ve gone to war together. We believe in each other. So I’m in those moments, and that’s how I am, so I don’t apologize for doing that. I’m just me, and I have to just be me.”
After all, the Wildcats entered the Final Four matchup feeling slighted by the NCAA.