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SPORTS

March Madness: How to Watch the Women’s Sweet 16 and What to Watch for in the NCAA Tournament

Women’s basketball is having itself a moment as March Madness rolls on to the Sweet 16.

A year ago, 9.9 million people tuned in to see Angel Reese and LSU beat Caitlin Clark and Iowa in a national championship game made unforgettable by the two stars who backed up their talk with stellar play. The game was on a national network — ABC — for the first time since 1996.

Well, Clark and Reese are back for more and their teams have advanced to the Sweet 16. So has No. 1 overall seed South Carolina, which hasn’t lost all season and has a chance to become the 10th perfect national champion.

The Gamecocks and Clark’s Hawkeyes are the top seeds in the two Albany (N.Y.) regionals while Pac-12 Conference Tournament champ Southern California and Big 12 tourney champ Texas are the two top seeds at the Portland (Ore.) site.

Colorado guard Jaylyn Sherrod (00) gets past Drake guard Katie Dinnebier (10) during the second half of a first-round college basketball game in the women’s NCAA Tournament in Manhattan, Kan., Friday, March 22, 2024, in Manhattan, Kan. Colorado won 86-72. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Clark has been the talk of the sport all season, making a bid for a second straight Associated Press Player of the Year honor after becoming the all-time leading scorer in Division I history and selling out venues wherever Iowa went.

TOP GAMES

2 Stanford vs. 3 NC State, Friday. Stanford is coming off an epic overtime win over Iowa State behind 41 points from Kiki Iriafen. North Carolina State went from unranked in preseason to No. 3 by early December and is now in its fifth Sweet 16 in six tournaments, including a run to the Elite Eight in 2022.

5 Colorado vs. 1 Iowa, Saturday. The Buffaloes opened the season with a stunner when they defeated defending national champion LSU and were among seven Pac-12 teams in the tournament. They are aggressive and will give Clark and her fellow Hawkeyes all they can handle.

3 LSU vs. 2 UCLA, Saturday. The makings of an instant classic? LSU’s Angel Reese and Flau’Jae Johnson against UCLA’s Kiki Rice and Lauren Betts certainly has the potential.

3 UConn vs. 7 Duke, Saturday. Paige Bueckers is playing at an MVP level for UConn, which is making its 30th straight trip to the Sweet 16. The Blue Devils are the lowest-seeded team left in the tourney, but Kara Lawson’s bunch showed a lot of poise in rallying from 16 points down to knock off Ohio State.

Drexel guard Laine McGurk (41) looks to score past Texas guard Gisella Maul (21) during the second half of a first-round college basketball game in the women’s NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas, Friday, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

HOW TO WATCH
Every game of the women’s tournament will be aired — here is a schedule that will be updated with matchups — on ESPN’s networks and streaming services with select games on ABC. While ESPN will air the Final Four, the title game will be back on ABC, just like last season.

BETTING GUIDE
South Carolina is the overwhelming favorite to win its second title in three years and third overall, all since 2017. The top three behind the Gamecocks (in order) are Iowa, LSU and UConn, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

WHEN ARE THE GAMES?
Sweet 16 weekend ( March 29-April 1) will see games in two sites once again: Albany, New York, and Portland, Oregon. The Final Four is in Cleveland on Friday, April 5, with the championship game on Sunday, April 7.

UConn guard Paige Bueckers (5) and Syracuse forward Saniaa Wilson (21) reach for a rebound in the first half of a second-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

GO DEEPER
From Caitlin Clark to Angel Reese to JuJu Watkins, the star power for March Madness is on full blast. A lot of those talented players happen to be freshmen, too. And some of their coaches certainly know their way around campus, since they are at their alma mater.

There was a lot of talk about how to stop Clark and her prolific scoring. It’s been tried, with mixed success. The Pac-12 put seven teams in the tournament as the conference fades away.

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