Women's March Madness 2024: What to expect in Iowa-LSU rematch

Chiney: LSU fuels themselves by thinking they are the villains (0:42)

Chiney Ogwumike and Andraya Carter break down LSU calling themselves the villains in college basketball. (0:42)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- When the 2024 women's NCAA tournament bracket came out two weeks ago, all eyes went to Region 2 in Albany and the potential Elite Eight showdown between the teams that met for the national championship last season.

On Monday (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App), that blockbuster arrives, as No. 1 seed Iowa faces third-seeded LSU for a trip to the women's Final Four in Cleveland. The seeds say one thing, but history says another: LSU won the national championship game 102-85 last April and likely is perceived by many as the favorite in this rematch.

The Hawkeyes have Caitlin Clark, the national player of the year last season who is expected to clean up those honors this year, too. As a senior, she became the all-time leading scorer in Division I men's or women's basketball -- she's currently at 3,859 points -- and drew sellout crowds not just to Carver-Hawkeye Arena but at all but two regular-season road games.

Clark is surrounded mostly by other sharpshooting guards, including Kate Martin and Gabbie Marshall, her teammates the past four years. Iowa leads Division I in scoring, and if the Hawkeyes get hot from behind the 3-point line, they are hard to stop.

But LSU leads Division I in getting to the foul line and is the top major conference team in rebounding, too. The Tigers feature double-double threat Angel Reese, last year's most outstanding player at the Final Four, along with talented guards such as Aneesah Morrow, Flau'jae Johnson and Mikaylah Williams.

The 2023 NCAA final drew almost 10 million viewers -- making it the most watched women's basketball game in television history -- on April 2 last year. On April 1, 2024, the Tigers and Hawkeyes will meet again. What should we expect? Which team will advance? ESPN's Andrea Adelson, Katie Barnes and Michael Voepel look at this high-voltage matchup.

Reese and Clark are two of the biggest stars in college basketball. Will Clark's perimeter game or Reese's paint game determine the winner?

Barnes: Perhaps the most delightful part of this game is that Reese and Clark play different positions, which opens the option for them both to dominate. But in this instance, with the lineups the way they are, Reese will have the last word, although Clark will get hers to be sure.

Hannah Stuelke will likely get the call to guard Reese, but she gives up size. Stuelke is 6-foot-2 and Reese is 6-3. An inch isn't a huge difference, but Reese often has to play bigger than she is with much less room to maneuver (look no further than her matchups with UCLA's Lauren Betts and South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso).

Against the Hawkeyes, Reese has the size advantage, so she's going to go to work. Expect her to get her 27th double-double on the season -- as long as she stays out of foul trouble -- and have a dominant performance inside.

Caitlin Clark's 29-point double-double fuels Iowa win

Caitlin Clark does it all with 29 points, 15 assists and 6 rebounds as Iowa cruises to an Elite Eight berth over Colorado.

Adelson: Unless Iowa does something drastically differently than last season, Reese and her post game have the advantage here. LSU's physicality on defense really stifled Iowa last year, and even though Clark scored 30 points in their matchup, she went 9-of-22 and said she wished she had attacked the rim more. Given the discourse about Reese and Clark that has dominated women's basketball over the course of the past year, something tells me Reese is going to play with even more physicality -- and will look to get her teammates involved to get the win, too. The Tigers simply are not going to let Clark beat them.

Voepel: Logically, everything points to LSU's strength inside -- particularly with Reese -- being too much for Iowa to slow down. Stuelke might have to play one of the best games of her life, and Iowa will need a big-body reserve like Addison O'Grady to get some quality minutes on defense, too.

The thing is, even if Clark outscores her -- which she did in last year's championship game, as Reese had 15 points -- Reese's supporting cast could limit the rest of the Hawkeyes enough for LSU to win.

Who else could step up for the Hawkeyes and Tigers and impact Monday's outcome?

Voepel: Flau'jae Johnson has been a star for the Tigers in this tournament, shooting 60% from the field in their three games and stepping forward in the big moments. Johnson has been good all season but seems to have saved her best for the postseason. She does a lot on the defensive end, too, to go along with her explosiveness on offense.

Johnson had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists as a freshman in last season's national championship game. She has grown as a player since: She's a better passer and is more versatile on defense. It's the kind of improvement you expect from sophomores, but Johnson was so talented in her first season, how well she is playing now really stands out. She also has the swagger and confidence LSU thrives on.

Gabbie Marshall has been Iowa's top defensive guard the past few seasons, but she also looked more confident in her 3-point shot Saturday against Colorado, making 4 of 5 from long range.

Clark is one of the best 3-point shooters in college history; she is six away from tying Oklahoma's Taylor Robertson -- who had 537 in five seasons -- for most in Division I history. But her accuracy has been a bit off in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, which might mean Clark will try to drive to the rim more against LSU -- something she did well against Colorado on Saturday.

Last year, the Tigers made that very hard for Clark to do. But if another Hawkeye like Marshall is hitting 3s, it will help open things up more for Clark to attack in different ways.

LSU rides fourth-quarter run to clinch Elite Eight berth

LSU lights it up in the fourth quarter to put UCLA away and clinch a berth in the Elite Eight.

Adelson: Remember, last year Reese got into early foul trouble and it was Jasmine Carson off the bench who ignited the Tigers with a team-high 22 points after going 5-of-6 from 3. LSU's bench doesn't have the type of depth this year that will get it an X factor. Johnson is the logical choice after her performance against UCLA. But I'm going with Aneesah Morrow. Both shots and plays should open up for her if the Hawkeyes decide to spend most of their time making sure Reese or Johnson doesn't beat them. Morrow has 21 double-doubles on the season and, given her propensity for creating turnovers, she can be a game-changer in this matchup.

Barnes: Kate Martin is the Hawkeyes' multitool player similar to the role Morrow plays for LSU. She can play inside but is quick enough to guard on the perimeter. Martin also shoots 38.4% from beyond the arc. Her 14 points and nine boards against Colorado are the kind of contribution Iowa will need on Monday. Plus, she will have to contain Morrow, which will be its own kind of difficult.

What role will emotion play?

Barnes: In the locker room following LSU's win over UCLA on Saturday, Reese was asked which team she'd prefer to see on Monday night. Her response was Colorado because she wanted the opportunity to avenge the Tigers' season-opening loss. "Of course, we'll take Iowa as well," she added. She tacked on the response, but this game is more than a rematch of last year's title game. Reese's and Clark's lives irrevocably changed the last time they played each other. They're both incredibly famous now, with millions of followers on social media.

But the responses to their brash personalities can differ, as seen with the criticisms of Reese following her "you can't see me" and "ring me" celebrations in last year's national championship game. Reese was called "classless" and an "idiot." Clark, who did a similar celebration earlier in the tournament, didn't experience the same level of vitriol, which Reese pointed out immediately.

The racialized responses weigh heavily a year later. And then there's the fact that LSU is the reigning national champion and beat Iowa to claim that title. All of that tension will hang thick in the air on Monday night. The team that better navigates it will go to Cleveland.

Voepel: Clark gets plenty of social media vitriol, too, from people who say she complains too much to officials, or that she pushes off defenders, that she flops to get foul calls or that she gets too much media attention, or ... you name it. This is nothing new in sports: Clark and Reese both climbed the ladder of fame last season through their success, and that has its benefits and its pitfalls. As the old saying goes, opposing fans never dislike other teams' average players. They dislike the stars, and that's Clark and Reese.

Clark overall seemed calmer Saturday against Colorado than she did in the early rounds, but that might have had to do with the extra pressure on the Hawkeyes to win at home. Iowa fans travel so well, they will make MVP Arena here in Albany feel a lot like Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and that will bring a lot of emotion, too.

Adelson: The emotional part of this game is what intrigues me the most. Who can forget the way the national championship game ended, with Reese pointing at her ring finger and making the John Cena "You can't see me" hand gesture, waving her hand across her face toward Clark? As Katie mentioned, the outcry after that moment, and the hardened stances about both players since then, will all come roaring back Monday night.

Though Iowa is the higher seed, LSU goes into this game as the reigning champion. The Tigers know they've beaten the Hawkeyes before. The emotional weight of trying to defeat the team that beat you for the national championship might be heavier on the Hawkeyes. As Clark said after the win over Colorado, "Anytime you have a chance to go up against somebody you lost to, it brings a little more energy." Combine that with the fact this could be Clark's final game in her record-setting career, and emotions will no doubt be high.

Kate Martin drills the trey

Kate Martin drills the trey

The LSU Tigers will win if ...

Adelson: ... they play with the type of physicality that flusters Iowa and forces the Hawkeyes into bad shots.

Barnes: ... they're able to dominate the boards and finish inside.

Voepel: ... they keep Iowa from scoring in the paint and force the Hawkeyes away from the fluid ball movement that is so much a part of their success. Iowa won a slowed-down defensive slog against West Virginia in the second round, but won't against LSU.

The Iowa Hawkeyes will win if ...

Adelson: ... they win the rebounding battle and shoot lights out from 3.

Barnes: ... they can limit LSU's second-chance points, coupled with Caitlin Clark doing Caitlin Clark things.

Voepel: ... LSU struggles with shooting, and Iowa is able to get enough rebounds to start the transition game it excels at so much. Plus, the Hawkeyes have to make 3-pointers. A lot of them.

Which team will head to the Final Four?

Adelson: I picked UCLA to come out of this region because I didn't think Iowa would make it to the Final Four. So I'm going with LSU because the Tigers' physical presence will be too much for Iowa to overcome.

Barnes: I picked LSU to win this matchup when the bracket came out, and will stick with the Tigers. Iowa won't have an answer for LSU in the paint, and that will be the difference.

Voepel: Iowa isn't the underdog by seed, but the Hawkeyes nonetheless feel like the underdog. Somebody needs to pick the underdog, right? So I will. It won't just be on Clark, though. An Iowa win can happen if her teammates play one of their best games collectively, too.