What to know about LSU, Iowa women's basketball's NCAA championship game opponent

Will Kennedy
Des Moines Register

Almost no one expected the Iowa Hawkeyes or the LSU Tigers to be in this situation.

But on Sunday afternoon, those two teams will battle it out for the right to call themselves the 2023 NCAA women's basketball national champions.

The Tigers came into the tournament as a 3-seed, so it's even more improbable for them to be here than it is for the 2-seed Hawkeyes.

Here are five things to know about the Tigers before they take the floor Sunday (2:30 p.m., ABC).

More:Iowa women's basketball stuns South Carolina, now one win from a national title

LSU has run through the tournament with relative ease

LSU hasn't had to sweat much in the NCAA Tournament this season. Through five games the Tigers have won all but two by double digits. They blew out Hawaii by 23 in the opening round and rolled past Michigan in the Round of 32. Their biggest test came against 2-seed Utah in the Sweet 16, where they came away with a 66-63 win. Then they cruised past Miami in the Elite Eight before coming back in the fourth quarter to topple 1-seed Virginia Tech in the Final Four.

First national title game for both squads

While everybody in Iowa is excited about the possibility of the Hawkeyes bringing back the program's first national title, people in Louisiana have the same feeling. The Tigers have made the Final Four on six occasions, but they've never made it past the national semifinals until this season.

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Angel Reese is dangerous and a familiar face for the Hawkeyes

Sophomore forward Angel Reese is a name Iowa fans will need to know heading into Sunday's matchup, though they hope they don't hear it on ABC's broadcast too often. Reese leads the team at 23.3 points per game and shoots .527 from the field. The Hawkeyes won't have to worry much about her from long range, though. She has only six 3-point attempts this season and has made just one of them.

Iowa fans may remember her. She spent two seasons at Big Ten rival Maryland before transferring to LSU before the 2022-23 campaign. Last year against the Hawkeyes, an 81-69 win for the Terps, she had a double-double after racking up 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting and 13 boards.

Offense will be on full display Sunday

In the national semifinal against South Carolina, it was Iowa's top-ranked offense against the Gamecocks' top-ranked defense. Sunday's matchup will be a tad different, though.

More:How to watch, stream and listen to Iowa women's basketball in the NCAA championship game

The Tigers come into this game with the fifth-best offense in the nation, scoring an average of 81.8 points per game compared to Iowa's 87.6. LSU's got a solid defense to go along with that offense, though, giving up just 56.7 points per game compared to the 70.9 the Hawkeyes are giving up on average.

Kim Mulkey is a proven winner

The second-year head coach for LSU is known for her wild fashion statements, and we can expect more of those on Sunday. But more important, she's a tenacious coach who has won three national titles, most recently in 2019 with Baylor.

She shocked the college basketball world when she decided to leave the Bears to lead LSU at the start of last season. The Tigers had fallen on hard times, failing to make the NCAA Tournament four straight years before she took over. LSU hadn't made it past the tournament's opening weekend since 2014.

More:What the sports world is saying about Caitlin Clark after 41-point performance in Final Four

She got LSU back to the Big Dance last season and now has brought the program to its first national title game in program history.

Contact Deputy Sports Editor Will Kennedy at Wkennedy@dmreg.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByWillKennedy