Throughout the year, UConn’s Paige Bueckers has been mentioned as women’s college basketball’s must-watch breakout freshman, but she’s not the only one. Now the whole country is getting to see how good Caitlin Clark really is in March Madness. Clark, a freshman for Iowa, has scoring ability from all three levels that will leave you in awe. Three-point range, NBA range, and possibly further, nothing is too far out for Clark.
Clark is now playing under the NCAA tournament’s spotlight. She has already led the Hawkeyes past Central Michigan and Kentucky to power the program into the Sweet 16. Next up for the Hawkeyes is a game against UConn in the Sweet 16 on Saturday. There might not be a better individual matchup in college basketball this year than Bueckers vs. Clark.
If you’re just noticing how good the Iowa freshman is, we’re here to help. Here’s how Clark became one of the best players in college hoops as a freshman.
Clark was a top recruit out of high school
Caitlin Clark’s name has been circulating in the basketball world for years. This 6-foot guard was the No. 4 player in the 2020 recruiting class and No. 2 guard in the country behind Bueckers, per ESPN’s 2020 recruiting rankings. She could have played anywhere but chose to stay close to home to be around family. A native of West Des Moines, Iowa, she was an avid Hawkeyes fan and very familiar with their women’s basketball fandom.
Her size, speed, and strength made her a tough matchup for any team, as she averaged 32.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game in her junior year at Dowling Catholic High School, earning 2018-2019 Iowa Girls basketball player of the year honors. Clark went on to become an All-American the following year. She was the first female McDonald’s All American out of the state of Iowa since Kiah Stokes received that honor in 2011. She was also a two time USA basketball gold medalist, a two-time MaxPreps high school All-American, Naismith All-American, and USA Today All-USA honoree
Clark has produced in all aspects of the game her freshman year
We knew Clark was expected to be a quality player as a freshman, but she has blown past every reasonable expectation from the moment she suited up for Iowa.
In the regular season, she averaged 27.8 points per game. Yes, as a freshman. She only had one game where she did not score double figures, and she recorded eight double-doubles and one triple-double. When you boil it down, what sets Clark apart is her deadly shooting ability, and she is unbelievably accurate.
Here’s a full highlight package of Clark’s best plays on the season:
It’s one thing to shoot the ball; it’s a whole other thing to shoot it this well this often. Clark averaged a 48.7 field goal percentage during the regular season and 42 percent from three-point range on 9.5 attempts per game from deep. Take a second to let that sink in. She is shooting nearly 50 percent, and given how far her range extends, her three-point percentage is even more remarkable than what the stats show on paper.
Clark’s dominance through the season earned her the Big Ten Freshman of the Year accolades and is sure to afford her more attention as the season goes on.
Clark continues to impress in the tournament
From high school to her first regular season and now into the postseason, Clark has not disappointed. In the first round of the tournament, the Hawkeyes took on Central Michigan, and Clark recorded 23 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
In the second round, she surpassed the point total from the first round game in just the first half. Clark scored 24 of her team’s 49 first-half points and outscored Kentucky’s total points scored in the first and second quarters.
Clark finished with 35 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists and is leading Iowa to its second Sweet Sixteen appearance in a row.
A Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark matchup is must-see
The Iowa Hawkeyes will take on the UConn Husky’s on March 27 in the Sweet 16. This is a game you won’t want to miss as two of the most talented freshman in the country, Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark, go head-to-head in an elimination game. With a lot on the line and two stars that consistently rise to the challenge, two of the premier offensive players in the country will be on display. But to add even more fun to an already entertaining matchup, these two are actually friends. In January, Bueckers said,
“We talk quite a bit. She’s doing really great things. She’s leading the country in scoring as a freshman. But I’ve known her for a very long time, and that’s what she does. She’s a playmaker, she’s a scorer. She’s just a really great player, so just to see her continue to do that at the college so it was pretty cool to see.”
Clark shared similar sentiments.
“I think people think we hate each other for some reason, which is literally the total opposite. I love her. She’s a good friend of mine, and she was a great teammate. I want nothing but the best for her.”
It’s always great to see two top talents supporting one another. But neither of them want to lose this game, and they will push their friendship and camaraderie aside for 40 minutes on Saturday as they battle for a bid to the Elite Eight.
To say the least, Clark can truly play. She’s been lighting it up all season, and this postseason is no exception. I’m looking forward to seeing how far she and the Hawkeyes can go in the postseason this year and for more stellar performances from this uber-talented freshman.