Must-see TV: Iowa, LSU won't reach regional final in women's tournament

Mar. 28—The top-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes and third-seeded Louisiana State Tigers will be eliminated in the Sweet 16 on Saturday.

That's right. I'm predicting the two teams from the 2023 championship game will be eliminated in the regional semifinal round this weekend.

Iowa gets No. 5 Colorado while LSU faces No. 2 UCLA.

Caitlin Clark leads the league in scoring (31.8 points per game) and assists (8.8 per game). Clark is an elite talent — the best shooter the women's game has seen.

But will the Hawkeyes be able to do enough as a team against a Colorado team that defends well?

The Tigers are led by Angel Reese's double-double average of 18.7 ppg (42nd-best) and 13.2 rebounds per game (second-best). Aneesah Morrow joins Reese with a double-double average of 16.5 ppg and 10 rpg. Mikaylah Williams chips in 14.5 ppg, Flau'jae Johnson 14.4 and Hailey Van Lith 11.8.

Again, can those high numbers continue against a tough defensive team like UCLA?

This will show that the women's tournament isn't just some three-team race with Clark and Iowa, Reese and LSU and then the undefeated ladies at South Carollina.

Let's pick the games:

No. 3 Oregon State vs. No. 2 Notre Dame

1:30 p.m. on Friday, ESPN

With this game I'm going to have to go with the tradition, history and recent success.

Before Scott Rueck took over for Oregon State, the Beavers had only made the national tournament three times. In 2015-16, he got them to a Final Four game. That started a chain of success as, over the next three years, the program lost in the Sweet 16, lost in the Elite Eight and lost in the Sweet 16 again.

OSU then went on a dry spell — only reaching the NCAA tournament once in the next four years.

Notre Dame has a rich tradition of success. The Fighting Irish have made the tournament in all but two seasons dating back to 1996. They've won two titles and have reached the regional semifinal round 19 times since then. They've lost in five championship games.

ND continues its success with a win.

No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 1 South Carolina4 p.m. on Friday, ESPN Indiana is a good ballclub. But it was lucky to escape No. 5 Oklahoma in the second round last weekend. I don't think the Hoosiers can hang with South Carolina.

The Gamecocks should win by 15 or more here.

No. 3 NC State vs. No. 2 Stanford

6:30 p.m. on Friday, ESPN Kiki Iriafen and Cameron Brink have combined for 83 points in this tournament to lead Stanford. They're a tough duo to contend with at the forward positions.

Iriafen averages a double-double at 19.2 ppg and 11.1 rpg. Brink is right there with her at 17.5 ppg and 11.9 rpg.

NC State will have its hands full with these two.

I'll take Stanford to advance to the Elite Eight.

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 Texas

9 p.m. on Friday, ESPN Gonzaga is a good team, don't get me wrong. But I think this will be a mismatch with Texas' overall size.

The Longhorns should take advantage with three starters at 6-foot-1 or taller and only one starter under 6 foot. Gonzaga has two under 6 foot and two at 6-foot-1 or taller.

I'm picking Texas.

No. 3 LSU vs. No. 2 UCLA

Noon on Saturday, ABC LSU has only gotten 13 points from its bench in two tournament games.

UCLA only allows about 60 ppg and will be able to threaten the Tigers on the defensive end.

I like the Bruins to win a close one here.

No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 1 Iowa

2:30 p.m. on Saturday, ABC This could be another bench mismatch. Iowa didn't get any points from its bench in a Round 2 win over West Virginia, although, it did get 29 from reserve players in a blowout of Holy Cross to start the tournament.

Meanwhile, Colorado's bench has produced 45 points in two games.

Clark is a star and it won't be easy to hold her down, but West Virginia held the Hawkeyes to just 64 points in Round 2 so it's possible to limit the team. The Buffaloes only allow 63.4 to opponents while Iowa surrenders 71.2.

I'll take Colorado in another close game.

No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 1 USC

4:30 p.m. on Saturday, ESPN Watkins and the Trojans shouldn't have much trouble. Baylor is a good team but it won't be able to stay close for all 40 minutes.

USC wins by 10-plus after a tight first half.

No. 7 Duke vs. No. 3 UConn

7 p.m. on Saturday, ESPN Duke was impressive in its upset of No. 2 Ohio State. The Blue Devils only allow 58 ppg. But the Huskies only allow 57.4 to the opposition.

With two good defenses, I can't help but lean to the best player on the court and that will be Paige Bueckers.

UConn outlasts Duke.