Tipoff is at 7:30 PM ET on ESPN
Seeding and Records
Mississippi State: 1 (35-1)
UCLA: 3 (27-7)
What to Watch For
Mississippi State’s new dynamic duo: Morgan William and Teiara McCowan
William and McCowan have been virtually unstoppable, as they have been integral components to the Bulldogs’ success. Both are at the top of their game on both ends of the floor, as nothing should change against the Bruins. It will take a complete effort, but William and McCowan have shown that they can take anyone. Though UCLA will have a plan, these two are sure to figure it out and take advantage.
McCowan has developed into one of, if not the game’s most dominant down low. She has played with a competitive edge and/or attitude as of late, one that has been infectious amongst her coaches and teammates. McCowan dominated NC State with 24 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks. Look for McCowan to continue her dominance in the paint, ultimately posting a double-double.
She will have to stay out of foul trouble if Mississippi wants to punch a ticket to the Final Four. McCowan must be able to draw fouls and keep her composure. If all mentioned above is shown tonight, Mississippi State will be at its best.
William has been sensational, plain and simple. The 5’5” point guard has taken her game to another level, one that has set a new standard in women’s college basketball. The point guard’s role has changed, as one must have an arsenal of weapons in their game.
William’s vision, handle, and scoring ability combined with a defensive prowess have been at their best, thus her being the face of March Madness. William is well aware of how to run the offense, as she has been brilliant as a facilitator. Look for “Itty Bitty” to fill the stat line and make a heavy impact.
UCLA’s Big Three: Lajahna Drummer, Monique Billings, and Jordin Canada
While the Bulldogs have lethal duos throughout their roster, the Bruins have a formidable three headed monster to deal with. Drummer, Billings, and Canada have each been a force throughout the season and tournament, as they have proven to rule both ends of the floor when at their best. All are upperclassman and well aware of their opponent, as the three are sure to take it to Mississippi State all game long.
Drummer is not afraid of anybody and has an unrivaled nose for the ball. She will give the Bulldogs fits in and around the paint. Drummer is intimating defensively, and will have her way at points. However, Mississippi State’s offense is one of the game’s best, as Drummer will need help throughout.
Billings is dangerous down low. She will be matched up with McCowan and it will be a battle of epic proportions. Like McCowan, Billings is a double-double machine and a terror in the paint. Having said that, this matchup is about foul trouble and composure, as McCowan and Billings must be weary of both.
We have all heard the name Canada. The Los Angeles native will bring Hollywood to Kansas City and put on a show. The senior guard is a stone cold scorer and offensive savant. However, she is going up against the best defense in the country.
Her game must be at its absolute best if UCLA has any shot at winning. She has led the Bruins all season, and will be heavily relied on by coach Cori Close. Though the question remains whether or not Canada can get free, as she is sure to be smothered by a Bulldogs’ defense that hasn’t, isn’t, and will not let up.
Blair Schaefer & Roshunda “Ro” Johnson on defense:
Mississippi State is a defense first team, as coach Vic Schaefer has preached greatness on the defensive end game after game. Daughter Blair and Johnson aka “Ro” have embraced that mindset to its entirety, as they will face their toughest test. Blair must draw charges and Johnson must have at least one steal and/or block. When on point defensively, the two have sparked the Bulldogs.
Blair is tough as nails and can set and/or change the entire tone of a game. She is underrated as a defender and capable of being a force to be reckoned with at any given moment. If able to get Billings, Drummer, and/or Canada into foul trouble, Mississippi State may just have enough of an advantage to take down the Bruins with ease.
Johnson has been Bulldogs’ unsung hero and most versatile weapon. She has been a headache for the opposition on defense, as she can go head to head with anyone. Johnson is not afraid to take risks and fight for any rebound. Look for her to come up big and make at least one game-changing play on the defensive end of the floor.
Victoria Vivians late:
The queen and best player in the game is quietly posting mind blowing numbers. She will have to be in double figures and at the top of her game to take down the Bruins. UCLA will throw the kitchen sink at Vivians, but the game’s best is sure to pick apart any defensive scheme.
Vivians put up 14 points, five rebounds, three assists, a steal, and a block against the Wolfpack. Likely to put on a scoring clinic, she will shine brighter this evening. Vic has full confidence in Vivians to take a game into her own hands if and when needed. Look for her to take over late and put forth her best performance.
This is by far and away the best game of the tournament, as two powerhouses are going at it. It will be close and come down to the very end, likely to one game-changing play. That said, Mississippi State gets the win and punches their ticket to the Final Four.
While both teams have depth and experience, the Bulldogs just want it more. They have a dangerous look in their eye and have embraced the bright lights. Mississippi State knows where they are, and will take advantage of each and every moment on the way to Columbus, OH.