Purdue, UConn men look to join South Carolina women as 2024 NCAA Tournament champions; 2024 Masters preview

Written by on April 8, 2024

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🏆 Good morning to everyone but especially …

THE SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

Too much skill. Too much depth. Too much size. Too much South Carolina.

The Gamecocks are the 10th undefeated national champions in Division I women’s basketball history after an 87-75 win over Iowa, avenging last year’s Final Four loss to the Hawkeyes.

A 38-0 record doesn’t come easy, and win No. 38 was among the toughest. Iowa jumped out to a 10-0 lead, and after a second-half South Carolina surge, the Hawkeyes got to within five late. But, again, too much South Carolina: Iowa, the best offensive team in the nation, didn’t score over the final 4:12.

After losing all five starters from last year’s team, the Gamecocks needed a lot of people to step in and step up, and there were three major characters in this triumphant story.

The first is Kamilla Cardoso. The 6-foot-7 star had 15 points, a career-high 17 rebounds and three blocks, saving her best for last before going off to the WNBA. Isabel Gonzalez wrote on Cardoso’s coronation.

The second character — or group, rather — is the bench. South Carolina’s outscored Iowa’s 37-0. Tessa Johnson (19 points) and MiLaysia Fulwiley (nine) are among several Gamecocks subs who could probably start pretty much anywhere else in the country. I wrote on how Staley and her reserves made it work in historic fashion.

And finally … the incomparable Dawn Staley. Greatness as a player. Greatness as a coach. Greatest … ever? Erica Ayala says …

  • Ayala: “Staley continues to lead her own way. It’s a style that fosters deep connections with her players, past and present, as 2022 NCAA champion Aliyah Boston, now a member of the Indiana Fever, was one of the first to literally lift Staley up when her former coach became so emotional she could not stand. … Does Staley need to surpass Pat Summit‘s eight titles or Geno Auriemma‘s 11 championships to be the greatest collegiate women’s basketball coach of all time? No.”

What a season for South Carolina. What a season for women’s college basketball. 

👍 Honorable mentions

😔 And not such a good morning for …

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CAITLIN CLARK AND THE IOWA HAWKEYES

One of women’s college basketball’s brightest stars could not outshine South Carolina’s collective greatness. Caitlin Clark sure tried — she finished with 30 points — but it wasn’t enough. After an 18-point first quarter, she scored just 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting the rest of the way, hounded by Raven Johnson and other Gamecocks.

While this is just the beginning of Clark’s basketball greatness, it’s the end of a college career that will never be duplicated. One that changed the game for good. Staley even sang Clark’s praises. Despite the loss, Clark’s incredible legacy is secure, Jack Maloney writes.

  • Maloney: “Clark is not solely responsible for the surge of interest in women’s basketball around the country, but her accomplishments, unique skillset and electric style of play made her an entry point for millions of fans. … Clark never did win a national championship, but you could make a strong case that carrying Iowa to back-to-back Final Fours is just as impressive, if not more so.”

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏀 Previewing UConn-Purdue: Who has the edge?

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One Division I basketball title down, one to go. UConn and Purdue do battle tonight, with the Huskies looking to go back-to-back and the Boilermakers looking to fully exorcise the demons of losing to a No. 16 seed, a la 2019 Virginia. The similarities between the two teams are “almost eerie,” Dennis Dodd notes.

Matt said the Boilermakers already redeemed themselves by ending NC State‘s magical run in the Final Four, but they certainly won’t feel full redemption unless they do something no one has done in nearly two months: beat UConn.

So, can they do it? Our experts are split. David Cobb broke down who has the edge at every key position, including …

  • Cobb:Frontcourt: Trey Kaufman-Renn and Zach Edey vs. Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan — Purdue has the edge because it has Edey, who is the best player in college basketball. But UConn isn’t far behind. Clingan has been incredible during the NCAA Tournament, particularly on defense. The 7-foot-2 sophomore is a shot-swatting menace with the length to contest even some of Edey’s shots. … The Boilermakers also have some flexibility with Mason Gillis, who comes off the bench. Edge: Purdue”

The Edey-Clingan battle will be awesome, in part because Clingan is finally smaller than his opponent. But when it comes to guards, the Huskies’ size could tilt things in their favor, Adi Joseph writes.

  • Joseph: Tristen Newton and Stephon Castle may be the best guard duo in the country. That part is arguable. What’s not is that they are the most physically imposing. At 6-5 and turning 23 this month, Newton has turned himself from an intriguing transfer on last season’s Huskies title team to a superstar in his fifth college season. Yet it’s Castle who has really turned heads during this run.”

Castle and Clingan also give the reigning champs a decided edge in the future NBA Draft talent, Kyle Boone notes.

Here’s everything else to know:

My pick? Thanks for asking! I picked UConn at the start, and I’m not abandoning the Huskies now.

⛳ 2024 Masters preview: Full odds, plus key stat to know

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With Akshay Bhatia beating Denny McCarthy in a playoff to win a thrilling Texas Open, the Masters field is set. Here are the odds as the week opens.

  1. Scottie Scheffler: 4-1
  2. Rory McIlroy: 10-1
  3. Jon Rahm: 12-1
  4. Xander Schauffele: 16-1
  5. Brooks Koepka: 18-1
  6. Hideki Matsuyama: 18-1
  7. Jordan Spieth: 20-1

There are tons and tons of reasons Scheffler is atop the list. He’s won two of his last three events (and tied for second in the one he didn’t win), and he’s donned the green jacket before. Oh, and he has this key stat going for him, Kyle Porter explains.

  • Porter: “Seven of the last nine Masters winners have been in the top six for the week in approach play. You have to hit the hell out of it, and you have to be disciplined about how you do it. … Ah, Scheffler. If you blindly look at both this year’s statistics and recent history at Augusta, he is the obvious choice to win this tournament by, like, 15 shots. It’s a true ‘Scottie or the field’ situation. Just look at his rankings.”

Here are his rankings, by the way.

Oh, and if past success at Augusta National matters to your picks, Kyle looked at that, too.

Cody Rhodes ‘finishes the story,’ wins undisputed WWE title at WrestleMania 40

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WrestleMania 40 gave pro wrestling fans exactly what they wanted on Sunday night in Philadelphia. After coming up short in the main event of WrestleMania 39 a year ago, Cody Rhodes defeated Roman Reigns to become the new undisputed WWE universal champion.

With a “Bloodline Rules” stipulation that all but guaranteed outside interference, Reigns tried to rely on his Bloodline faction and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to keep his monstrous 1,316-day reign alive. But Rhodes had backup of his own in the form of Jey Uso, Seth Rollins, John Cena and The Undertaker. He eventually managed to pin Reigns after hitting his Cross Rhodes finisher three consecutive times.

The win not only gave fans the decisive Rhodes victory they’d been begging for, but it sent a loud message that the promotion has entered a new era. With Paul “Triple H” Levesque in full control of the company’s booking, Vince McMahon out of the picture following his latest sexual misconduct scandal, a significantly improved television production and a white-hot roster that sells out arenas week after week, the WWE might just be cool again.

“I think that was just the joy,” Rhodes said in the post-show press conference when asked about his emotional championship celebration. “There is a respect for Roman and The Bloodline, no doubt, but nothing is bigger than the company, than the industry itself. And this was a win for the people, and certainly a win for me.”

Check out Brent Brookhouse’s full recap of WrestleMania 40 Night 1 and Night 2.

Other highlights from the two-night event included:

  • Drew McIntyre captured the world heavyweight championship from Seth Rollins, only for CM Punk to attack him after the match. Damian Priest then ran out, cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and won the title from McIntyre in just nine seconds.
  • Logan Paul wound up being one of the few champions to actually retain over the weekend, beating both Randy Orton and Kevin Owens in a triple threat match.
  • Sami Zayn ended Gunther’s 666-day record-shattering reign as intercontinental champion.

📺 What we’re watching Monday

🏀 (1) UConn vs. (1) Purdue, 9:20 p.m. on TBS

The post Purdue, UConn men look to join South Carolina women as 2024 NCAA Tournament champions; 2024 Masters preview first appeared on CBS Sports.


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