BUFFS

CU Buffs will face Caitlin Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes in Sweet 16, again

Mar 25, 2024, 8:27 PM | Updated: 9:45 pm

Caitlin Clark vs the Colorado Buffaloes...

Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

It’s deja vu all over again, or perhaps a chance at revenge for the Colorado Buffaloes. For the second straight season, the Buffs will match up with Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, with the hope that this year’s result will be different.

The CU women advanced on Sunday, beating the Kansas State Wildcats 63-50 on the road. Following the same path as last year when JR Payne’s team was forced to win a true road game at Duke after beating up a smaller school, the Buffs will now travel to Albany for the star showdown. The game will take place Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and will be televised on ABC.

This year has been arguably better for the mostly returning unit, going 24-9 with the highlight of a number three ranking in the AP Poll and wins against LSU, Stanford and USC. And now they get a chance at knocking off another top team in the Hawkeyes, who are the No. 1 seed in the region and coming off home wins against Holy Cross and West Virginia.

Of course, they feature Clark, the soon-to-be No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft reigning Player of the Year and favorite for that honor again. At 31.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists a game, she has captivated the nation with her play and has earned off-court deals with State Farm and more. Last year Clark scored 31 points against Colorado en route to a 87-77 win.

The Buffaloes led that game early in the second half before Iowa’s massive third quarter led by 11 points and three assists from Clark. Frida Formann led Colorado with 21 points in the game, hitting four threes.

But it’s not just the Buffaloes who seek revenge, so too do the Hawkeyes, who went to the title game but lost to the LSU Tigers. That same Kim Mulkey crew needs to beat the UCLA Bruins in the Sweet 16 but the winner of that matchup will play the winner of Colorado against Iowa while Quay Miller had a game-high 14 rebounds.

The Buffaloes beat LSU to start the season and also lost twice to UCLA in Pac-12 play. For Iowa, they’ll want to get past Colorado and cut the nets down against LSU in securing another trip to the Final Four.

It’s the Buffaloes third-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament under Payne, who is in her eighth season leading the black and gold. They have been led by Pac-12 first-teamers Jaylyn Sherrod and Aaronette Vonleh. Sherrod throws a team-high five assists a game to go with a team-leading 2.2 steals a night and 13 points a contest, while Vonleh scores a team-best 14 a game on 56% shooting. Knockdown shooter Formann and rebounder Miller round out Payne’s top options for topping Clark’s Iowa.

Colorado has thrice made the Elite Eight, with the last trip coming in 2002. The Buffaloes have never made it into the Final Four, not even under the legendary Ceal Barry.

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