Why Caitlin Clark is the most exciting player in March Madness
Looking for the most exciting player in the NCAA Women’s Tournament? The most exciting March Madness player? Caitlin Clark is a 6-foot-tall young point guard from Iowa, where Hawkeye fans expect something special when she plays. And she loves to produce.
Clark, one of only two contenders for the National Team Player of the Year, has four triple-doubles this season and 10 in his Iowa career. She is averaging 27.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds for second-place Hawkeyes.
“She’s fearless,” said Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, one of several basketball greats who rated Clark’s game for Sportzshala. “We know everything is centered around her, but she does a great job of scoring at a high level, as well as being a playmaker and distributor.”
When the ball is in her hands – which she does most of the time – Clarke will confuse defenders in many ways. Their nightmares begin as soon as she catches the rebound.
She could dribble at full speed straight to the basket. Or throw a long pass — in the style of Patrick Mahomes, her favorite quarterback — over the heads of the opponents to prevent a teammate from scoring. Cross, bullet pass, ricochet pass, pass from behind – she has so many ways to find an open teammate.
Or maybe she’ll throw a 3-pointer from what most people think is a desperation shot. And if the defender tries to cover that 3 logo, he can leave it in the dust for a pull-up shot.
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder says her favorite thing about training is seeing what Clark can come up with that day. Clarke is the master of the court for Iowa’s starting five, along with Monica Chinano, Gabby Marshall, Kate Martin and McKenna Warnock, who have played together in almost every game over the past three years. Iowa advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2021 but lost in the second round last season.
Thirty years have passed since Iowa’s only Women’s Final Four appearance, and the Hawkeyes opened the NCAA Tournament on Friday (4:00 pm ET, Sportzshala/Sportzshala App) against SE Louisiana at the sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena. , hopefully the return trip is finally in the cards. With Clark, things could be in their favor.
What makes it so good and so mesmerizing? We asked Sue Bird, Curry, Sabrina Ionescu and Ticha Penicheiro to help analyze Clark’s game.
Steph Curry on Clarke’s range: ‘She’s always in balance’
It’s not just that Clarke is tied for first place in the Division with 108 three-pointers this season, or that she’s shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point. Thing is, she can hit “logo 3” — a shot that has her foot touching Hawkeye’s giant head on her home court — and that’s nothing new to her.
“No shot is a bad shot if you can throw it as well as she can,” said Curry, who in 2021 became the NBA’s all-time leader in three-point scoring. “When you watch them play, it just adds an element of surprise that you can’t plan for a game. Because it’s so subtle in the sense that when she crosses half the court, she’s within her reach.”
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That’s the challenge Curry poses to the NBA defense: He’s constantly throwing shots from places no one should be throwing from. He makes the miraculous seem ordinary. For Clarke, long three-pointers do a lot: fire up the crowd and her teammates, demoralize the defense, and open up the floor even more to her other options.
“Logo 3 blows the opponent away because there is no real defense against them,” Curry said. “You have to either sell out and try to take it away, and she’s capable enough to streak right past you and drive. Especially at home and even on the road it draws the crowd in because they don’t see it. so often”.
According to Sportzshala Stats & Information, Clarke has hit 10 triples from 30 feet or more in her career, including six this season (the longest was from 33 feet). Clark’s three-point shot average is 26’1″, the longest in Division I this season, according to Sportzshala statistics and information.
Curry notes that Clark retains his shooting form even on the longest threes.
“That’s definitely the key: your mechanics don’t change no matter what distance you shoot from,” he said. “It all starts with your balance, the ability to consistently put out the same release no matter where you are shooting from on the floor. And everything should be in rhythm. I think this is the most important thing Caitlyn demonstrates. It doesn’t matter if she goes right or left, catches and throws or doesn’t dribble, she is always in balance.
“For someone else, this might seem like a Hail Mary-style shot, but you can see the basics and mechanics every time she releases it.”
Sue Bird on Clark’s death: “You have to foresee”
Byrd set the standard for her position. As the top point guard in women’s basketball, she led the UConn Huskies, Seattle Storm, and USA Basketball for two decades. Last year, she retired as the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists (3,234) and averaged 11.7 points and 5.6 assists over 19 seasons.
Bird has said that Clarke’s scoring and game performance is her ticket to a long professional career.
“What really impressed me about Caitlin Clark’s vision of the court was the combination of things,” Bird said. “Sometimes people think you just have to keep your head up, but it’s so much more than that. You have to anticipate that she is doing very well. and it was also impressive.
“The relationship between her passing and her performance is what will take her a long way. Obviously you can’t leave it open. Therefore, the closer you are to her, the more opportunities she has to create for herself and use this space to create for others. … Since she can be such a good passer, it will actually be easier for her to score. The connection between the two will probably really be one of the best things about her game.”
Tisha Penicheiro on Clarke’s leadership: ‘The best decision maker on the court’
Penicheiro is behind Bird in WNBA assists with 2,600 assists in 15 seasons, and she has led the league in assists seven times. An Old Dominion college star, she played most of her WNBA career for the Sacramento Monarchs, winning the title in 2005.
Penicheiro wasn’t just one of the best passers in WNBA history, she had the most offensive offense. At least once per game, Penicheiro found an open teammate saying, “Did you just see that?” help.
Penicheiro admires Clark’s leadership on the court.
“One of the best qualities any point guard can have is the ability to make his teammates better. And Caitlin does it,” Penicheiro said. “She is able to bring out all the strengths of her teammates. In addition, her unwavering confidence extends to the entire team – it’s pretty obvious!
“She is a real floor general who controls the pace and tempo of the game. Knows when to take control and when to engage his teammates.”
At 5-11, Penicheiro, like Clarke, used her size as a passer. And she’s just as impressed with Clarke’s goals and rebounds because they’re at such an elite level too.
“Being able to score from 3’s, from mid-range and in the paint is also a lost art,” said Penicheiro. “She can score points in all three levels, which makes guarding her a very difficult task.
“I also like defenders who can hit back. It helps in transition play because the ball is already in her hands and she is the best decision maker on the court.”
Sabrina Ionescu on Clarke’s triple threat: ‘She’s a game changer’
Ionescu is an authority on triple-doubles. She had an NCAA record of 26 while playing for Oregon from 2016 to 2020. Drafted #1 in the 2020 WNBA draft by the New York Liberty, Ionescu has averaged 18.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists over her college career and is a first choice. – women or men – score 2000 points, 1000 rebounds and 1000 assists.
Clarke is on track to potentially join the 2K/1K/1K club with 2,526 points, 673 rebounds and 738 assists in the NCAA Tournament.
Clarke triple-doubled this season against Wisconsin (22 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists), Ohio State (28, 10, 15), Penn State (23, 10, 14) and again Ohio State (30, 10, 17 ). ). She also had five games in which she finished either one assist or one rebound short of a triple-double.
“Caitlyn is having a great season and she’s changing the game one triple-double at a time,” Ionescu said.