The Arizona women’s basketball team will take on Stanford in the national championship game at 3 p.m. PT on ESPN.
Here are some stats to keep an eye on as the Wildcats go for all the marbles.
If Arizona is going to have any chance of beating Stanford, it will have to make a decent number of 3s. Not just to keep pace with the Cardinal, but to keep their defense honest.
Stanford likes to put 10 feet—AKA all five players—in the paint against Arizona and dare the Wildcats to hit from the perimeter. They did not do that in their first two matchups with the Cardinal, going a combined 11 for 46 from long range.
There’s a reason to be optimistic Arizona can flip the script in the national championship game. They have made 43 of their 100 3-pointers in the NCAA Tournament and have shot 37 percent or better in each of their last three games.
The way Aari McDonald is playing, we can expect her to hit some, so players like Sam Thomas, Trinity Baptiste, Helena Pueyo and Cate Reese will have to step up.
The rebounding margin
No one expects Arizona to outrebound a bigger, longer Stanford team, but they have to keep the margin acceptable and avoid what happened on Jan. 1 when the Cardinal won the rebounding battle, 51-32.
Arizona did a better job in the first rematch (32-39) and has been trending upward in that department in the NCAA Tournament, outrebounding both Indiana and UConn. Creating second-shots and finishing defensive possessions is paramount in a game that is likely to be a defensive struggle.
It will be imperative that Cate Reese and Trinity Baptiste stay out of foul trouble and that McDonald and Pueyo make an impact on the boards like they have been in March.
Points in the paint
Along similar lines, Arizona will need to convert some tough buckets over Stanford’s length, whether that’s the guards or posts. Only 26 of Arizona’s 102 points against Stanford this season have come from the paint. Arizona had 22 in the Final Four against UConn alone.
Aari’s scoring efficiency
McDonald has been white hot in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 30 points per game while shooting 56 percent from 3. However, Stanford has done a good job of containing her in the past by clogging her driving lanes and forcing her into long jumpers.
In two games against the Cardinal this season, McDonald is averaging just 16 points on 11-of-42 shooting, including a 1-of-12 mark from 3.
No way Arizona can survive if Aari has an off night.
Free throw percentage
Arizona is a nine-point underdog, so every point matters. The Wildcats shot 64 percent from the line in both losses to Stanford and will need to be better than that Sunday.
Arizona made 50 percent or less of their free throws in their first three NCAA Tournament games, but has made 70 percent since.