Through two rounds, there have been some good games, some exciting finishes, and a few upsets. But there's been one clear star of the NCAA Tournament -- and she plays for Iowa. Caitlin Clark's NCAA Tournament debut has been absolutely spectacular.
Central Michigan: 23 points (8/16 FG, 3/8 FG, 4/5 FT), 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals
Kentucky: 35 points (13/21 FG, 6/12 3FG, 3/3 FT), 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Clark was getting plenty of buzz entering the tournament after her dazzling performances in the regular season and Big Ten Tournament. She backed that up with a 23-7-7 in her first-ever NCAA Tournament game; a stunning display from most players, even if it was close to average for her. But her game against Kentucky was anything but average; she was locked in and firing from the jump, scoring 11 points on 3/5 shooting to match the entire Wildcats team output for the first quarter. Then she was even better in the second quarter, scoring 13 points on 4/4 shooting (3/3 from deep), to outscore the Wildcats, 13-11.
First half scoring
Caitlin Clark: 24 points, 8/11 FG, 6/8 3FG, 2/2 FT
Kentucky (all): 22 points, 8/37 FG, 2/13 3FG, 4/4 FT
Clark was quieter in the second half (Iowa didn't need big production out of her with a 49-22 halftime lead), but she still finished with 35 points on 13/21 shooting (6/12 from 3-point range), 7 rebounds, and 6 assists). The 35 points was the most scored by a single player in this year's NCAA Tournament so far and she broke the Iowa school records for most points, field goals made, and three-pointers made.
Oh, and she put up those incredible while numbers while doing cool shit like this:
Clark's proving herself to be a walking bucket AND a regular source of highlights, which has led to her drawing a lot of positive buzz, from the likes of Jay Bilas, who called her the brightest star of the NCAA Tournament (men's or women's):
Syracuse sharpshooter Buddy Boeheim has been spectacular, but still second to Iowas Caitlin Clark, the brightest star of this postseason. @IowaWBB @espn @espnW @CaitlinClark22 pic.twitter.com/Sw9tlg9Ih9— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) March 24, 2021
From Dan Patrick:
DP spent his afternoon yesterday watching Caitlin Clark (@CaitlinClark22) and @IowaWBB. If you haven't seen Caitlin play, he's advising you all to tune into their Sweet 16 matchup against @UConnWBB and Paige Bueckers (@PaigeBueckers1) this Saturday. pic.twitter.com/ZsBX90jIrF— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) March 24, 2021
From a little NBA player named Kevin Durant:
And from a whole host of other folks in the sports world:
SportsCenter led off with highlights of Clark yesterday and her (and Iowa's) pending game with UConn was the focus of conversation for several minutes by Scott Van Pelt and Rebecca Lobo. The spotlight on Clark is only going to get brighter this weekend as she (and Iowa) will be part of the marquee game of the Sweet 16, taking on #1 seed UConn this Saturday (12 PM CT, ABC). UConn has their own superstar freshman in Paige Bueckers (a longtime friend of Clark's from the AAU and national team ranks), so we're going to see the future of women's college basketball on display on the court in that game.
Based on the thrills Clark has provided through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, we can't wait to see what she might be able to do next. And neither can the rest of the college basketball world.