March Madness: Ranking the women's Final Four starters from 1 to 20

It’s the final weekend of the college basketball season and the two best point guards in the class of 2020 are not only still playing, but will face off against each other.

Caitlin Clark, the No. 4 overall recruit in the class, carried Iowa into the Final Four with a 41-point, 12-assist performance. The Hawkeyes will face No. 1 overall recruit Paige Bueckers, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and the powerhouse Connecticut program. The two have only played each other once in college, as freshmen in the Sweet 16. Bueckers and the Huskies won that initial meeting. Clark is playing for her second Final Four bid after Iowa lost to LSU in the national championship game last year.

Three more top-15 prospects in that class are also represented. Both are transfers. South Carolina forward Kamilla Cardoso ranked No. 5 and started her career at Syracuse. Te-Hina Paopao was ranked No. 11 and played three years at Oregon. UConn’s forward Aaliyah Edwards, a Canadian national team pool member, was ranked No. 23 in the class.

The Final Four tips off at 7 p.m. ET at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland with NC State and South Carolina. Iowa and UConn tip afterward. The championship game is Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on ABC.

1. Caitlin Clark, G, Iowa

Dropping a stat line of 41 points (shooting 44.8%), 12 assists, seven rebounds, two steals and a block in an Elite Eight game against the reigning champs puts you at the top of the list, easy. Clark, the all-time NCAA leading scorer, is averaging 32.3 ppg in the tournament, right at her season-long average, with 10 assists per game as well.

2. Paige Bueckers, G, UConn

Bueckers is more of a 1.25, but someone has to be second (and Geno Auriemma will be happy). She returned from an ACL injury that kept her out of last season to reach her third Final Four in as many tries. Bueckers is carrying most of the scoring load on a depleted roster that had to start two freshmen. She's packing the stat sheet averaging 28 ppg, 9 rpg, 5 apg, 3.3 spg and 1.5 bpg.

3. Aziaha James, G, NC State

James is averaging 24.3 ppg to lift the No. 3 seeded Wolfpack to their first Final Four since 1998. The 29 points against Stanford and 27 against Texas were the most impressive, and efficient, of her run so far. She hit all five 3-point attempts in the first half against the Longhorns.

4. Aaliyah Edwards, F, UConn

Edwards is Buckers’ other half leading a shorthanded Huskies squad. The WNBA-bound center is averaging 16.8 ppg and 8.5 rpg, both second to Bueckers.

5. Raven Johnson, G, South Carolina

The Gamecocks are so well balanced and it all comes back to their sophomore point guard. Johnson has only three turnovers in four games and hit clutch 3-pointers (she was 3-of-3) against Indiana to hold the Hoosiers off.

6. Kamilla Cardoso, F, South Carolina

Cardoso provides the strong inside presence for the Gamecocks and they often turn to her out of timeouts when key buckets are needed. She’s averaging a team-high 15.3 ppg, almost six more than anyone else on the team that is averaging at least 20 minutes per game. That’s a larger gap than the regular season numbers.

7. Kate Martin, G, Iowa

“The Glue,” as she’s known, is having a stellar tournament on the boards, which has been key for this undersized team. She’s averaging 9.8 over four games, three more per game than the regular season. Her 14.9 ppg is second to Clark and she’s shooting 51.9% from inside the arc.

8 - Saniya Rivers, G, NC State

Rivers (15 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg) is having a career-best season moving into a regular starting lineup role for the first time. She had three blocks against Tennessee and two more against Texas. The junior played all 40 minutes in those games and will face her old team South Carolina, where she averaged 13 minutes per game off the bench as a freshman.

9. Sydney Affolter, G, Iowa

Affolter wasn’t a starter one month ago and now she’s one of the most crucial players on this Iowa team. She earned Albany 2 all-region honors after scoring 15 (6-of-6) against Colorado and 16 (5-of-10) against LSU. She’s shooting 64.3% from the field in the tournament (75% from inside the arc), the best of any Iowa player.

10. Te-Hina Paopao, G, South Carolina

Paopao, a veteran transfer from Oregon, is one of the biggest keys to the Gamecocks’ success this season because she is a dangerous 3-point shooter (46.3%). She hasn’t performed as well over the last two games, going 1-of-7 from 3 against Oregon State.

11. Nika Mühl, UConn

Mühl’s biggest contribution of the tournament was attempting to make things difficult enough on JuJu Watkins in the Elite Eight matchup. The senior point guard leads the team with 7 apg in the tournament and is second in steals (2.0), which will be important against Clark and Iowa.

12. River Baldwin, NC State

Baldwin does all of the little stuff for NC State that doesn’t show up in the box score, but allows her guards to pile in points from outside. The fifth-year center is a perfect fit for this Wolfpack roster and is averaging a third-best 11.5 ppg in the tournament. Against Texas, she was 5-of-7 from 2 and 6-of-6 from the free throw line for 16 points.

13. Hannah Stuelke, F, Iowa

Stuelke played limited minutes with foul trouble, but held her own in the paint against Colorado’s Aaronette Vonleh and LSU’s Angel Reese. The sophomore can run the floor with Clark in transition and players credited her momentum-shifting and-1 as a critical moment in their win against LSU.

14. Bree Hall, South Carolina

Hall hasn’t had a great statistical showing this tournament. But she took a veteran leadership role on a team that is inexperienced as starters, and she focused on that to help settle her team in a tight win against Oregon State.

15. Ashlyn Watkins, South Carolina

Watkins’ defense (2.8 blocks per game) helped send South Carolina into the Elite Eight over Indiana. And it did it again for a berth in the Final Four. She had 14 rebounds and four blocks against Oregon State. The sophomore’s 7.3 rpg in 21.7 mpg are second to Cardoso.

16. Gabbie Marshall, G, Iowa

Marshall played a solid defensive game against LSU tipping passes to push Iowa into the fast-paced transition game in which it thrives. The fifth-year guard is also heating up from 3-point range after a rocky year from deep. She was 3-of-7 in the opener against Holy Cross and 4-of-5 against Colorado.

17. KK Arnold, UConn

Arnold reached double-digits against Syracuse and Duke, both games that UConn really needed an additional scorer behind Bueckers and Edwards. The freshman also had four assists and five steals against Duke. Against USC, she was efficient, even without scoring much, and pulled in five rebounds.

18. Ashlynn Shade, G, UConn

Shade is a go-to option behind Bueckers and Edwards, averaging 12.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg in the tournament. The freshman scored a career-high 26 in the opening round victory over Jackson State. She played all but 27 seconds. She also had 19 against Syracuse.

19. Madison Hayes, G, NC State

Hayes is impacting the Wolfpack in ways outside of scoring. She’s averaging 5.8 rpg and 2.8 apg with only 1 tpg while shooting 25% overall. The senior had 10 rebounds against Stanford’s Kiki Iriafen and Cameron Brink.

20. Mimi Collins, F, NC State

The fifth-year senior is also averaging fewer points than the Wolfpack received from her this season. She had her best game against Texas going 4-of-6, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, for 10 points with four rebounds, one steal and one block.

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