The stars are ready to shine in the NCAA Tournament — Kim Adams talks Caitlin Clark

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, March 13, 2024

Happy Basketball Wednesday, presented by The BIG EAST Conference, where if you think Stanford-educated Cameron Brink took a pay cut to enter the 2024 WNBA Draft, I have a fantastic deal for you on the Golden Gate Bridge. Let’s talk Brink, though, along with the other signature stars of the NCAA. This past weekend served as both a showcase for so many of them, and from a positioning standpoint, sets up an NCAA Tournament that should be designed to showcase them as well.

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There is no question that star power will help drive interest in the 2024 NCAA Tournament, and the biggest star this season doing just that is Caitlin Clark. This past weekend, she took care of business, winning a Big Ten championship with her Iowa Hawkeyes, thanks to this ridiculous shot in the final minute of overtime to give Iowa the lead for good.

How very on-brand, Caitlin. The Hawkeyes have done all they can to secure a number one seed. So, too, did USC and JuJu Watkins, who won the final Pac-12 title. Notably, Watkins didn’t do it alone, with the switch in defenses from Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer turning Watkins from the 51-point performer in the regular-season matchup between the two teams to a gravity-shifter in this one, but as we’ve been telling you at The Next, USC is a lot more than just Watkins. Larger point, though? USC probably did enough to earn a number one seed for maximizing Watkins’ potential to show out in the NCAA field as well.

So it went with Paige Bueckers at UConn, too, including this shot that’s reminiscent of the one Clark hit in OT.

The same was true for the other notable freshmen. Hannah Hidalgo‘s championship game performance for Notre Dame — 22 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds (from the 5’6 Hidalgo) and most incredibly, particularly for a freshman: zero turnovers — led the Fighting Irish to an ACC crown.

Madison Booker of Texas, asked to fill Rori Harmon‘s roll and learn to play point guard midway through her freshman season, no big deal, scored 22 points and also delivered 5 assists against zero turnovers to help the Longhorns to a Big 12 Tournament crown.

Even the teams with huge stars who didn’t win their tournaments, like Brink of Stanford and Angel Reese of LSU, finished as strong runners-up to those who did, solidifying their likely NCAA seedings ahead of Sunday night’s bracket reveal.

And though Dawn Staley‘s crew is more ensemble piece this season than built around an Aliyah Boston or A’ja Wilson, it is vital that the South Carolina history train rolled on, too, giving the NCAA Tournament another historic aspect as well. It would have been hard to script this any better, for television ratings and fans alike.

(Disclaimer: The IX is fully independent, editorially, from the BIG EAST Conference or any other paid partnership.)


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This week in women’s basketball

Gigi Speer joined The Court to talk about her pathway into women’s basketball media.

Liz Robbins caught up with Dawn Staley.

Great stuff from Lindsay Gibbs at the ACC Tournament.

The WNBA future stars showed out at the SEC Tournament.

The coaching carousel is spinning already, friends!


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Five at The IX: Broadcaster Kim Adams talks Caitlin Clark and more


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Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.