Apr 4, 2024 - Sports

Paige Bueckers regains her form in time for battle with Caitlin Clark

Paige Bueckers yells during a game

Paige Bueckers and UConn take on Caitlin Clark and Iowa tonight. Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

In what could again be the most-watched women's college basketball game in history, UConn's Paige Bueckers will go head-to-head with Iowa's Caitlin Clark Friday night with a trip to the championship game on the line.

Why it matters: Clark's brilliant play for Iowa has made women's college basketball the 1A story in sports, with her TV ratings beating out the most recent World Series and all but one of last year's NBA Finals games.

Caitlin Clark of Iowa signs a bunch of hats and autographs as she walks off the court wearing a black shirt
Caitlin Clark signs autographs after beating the LSU Tigers 94-87 in the Elite 8. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Flashback: Minnesota-native Bueckers was on a similar trajectory as Clark when they both were freshman in 2020-2021.

  • She averaged 20 points per game that season and was named national player of the year.

Yes, but: Bueckers' ascension was derailed by injuries that wiped out half of her sophomore season and the entirety of what would have been her junior year.

State of play: The Hopkins grad is back. She's averaging 28 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in the NCAA tournament. In other words, she's hitting her stride at a perfect time.

By the numbers: The two players are coming off stellar performances in the Elite Eight. Clark dropped 41 points and 12 assists in a win against the reigning national champion LSU Tigers.

  • Bueckers scored 28, grabbed 10 boards and dished out six assists in a win against USC.

Fun fact: Both Bueckers and Clark, who is from Des Moines, grew up rooting for the Minnesota Lynx during their 2010s dynasty.

What we're watching: The game. It's at 8:30pm Friday, on ESPN.

  • Iowa is favored by 2.5 points.

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