The Wolfpack (32-3) can advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1998, when it beat U-Conn. The teams play infrequently, which adds spice to this matchup. U-Conn. (28-5) leads the all-time series, 6-2, and the teams last played during the 2007 NCAA tournament. U-Conn., of course, is a perennial powerhouse in women’s hoops, winning 11 national titles (including four in a row). The Huskies may have a home state advantage, but that isn’t likely to bother the Wolfpack. North Carolina State became the first NCAA women’s team to beat two No. 1 teams on the road in the same season when it took down South Carolina and Louisville last year. This year, the Wolfpack beat Indiana, then No. 6, in Bloomington and are 9-1 on the road this season, 6-0 on neutral courts.
U-Conn. is the second seed in the region, largely because all-everything Paige Bueckers missed a significant chunk of the season with a knee injury. Bueckers, the 2021 national player of the year, also won the Naismith Trophy, the Wooden Award and was the USBWA Player and Freshman of the Year. She was also named to the 2021 Final Four all-tournament team, with U-Conn. upset by Arizona in a national semi-final. Kai Crutchfield is likely to be charged with stopping Bueckers, who was injured in December and returned to the lineup in February.
“If y’all haven’t noticed, she has a whole lot of God-given talent and ability,” North Carolina State Coach Wes Moore said of Crutchfield, who helped hold Notre Dame guard Olivia Miles to six points in the second half of their Sweet 16 matchup on Saturday.