Caitlin Clark is hoping to lead Iowa back to the Final Four after the Hawkeyes fell in the national title game last season. Iowa is currently in the Sweet 16 and gearing up to face Colorado, but one analyst is skeptical of Iowa reaching the Final Four.

ESPN’s Andraya Carter said on Friday’s broadcast of “Get Up” that Clark and the Hawkeyes are “highly unlikely” to get back into the Final Four. The matchup with Colorado is not the biggest area of concern, though Carter later referred to the matchup as a toss-up.

“Caitlin Clark and Iowa’s chances of getting to the Final Four are highly unlikely in my opinion. I have them beating Colorado… I do not have Iowa or Caitlin Clark — the two of them together — getting past LSU or UCLA,” Carter predicted.

“Iowa is such an undersized team. When you’re watching this West Virginia game: West Virginia is not an elite offensive rebounding team, West Virginia doesn’t have a lot of size. Those are two things that UCLA and LSU both have, and they have it readily available… the size of both of those teams I have giving Iowa trouble if they get past Colorado.”

Heading into Saturday’s game, Iowa is listed as a 6.5-point favorite per ESPN Bet. That sportsbook also has Iowa as the current favorite in the region, putting the Hawkeyes at +110 to win Albany 2 with LSU at +140. Fans can track all the latest odds and trends with Tradition’s best Ohio betting apps.

One cause for concern

The Hawkeyes have reached the Sweet 16 with wins over Holy Cross (91-65) and West Virginia (64-54), and Clark is averaging 29.5 points per game. However, her efficiency has not been on par with her usual standard.

Of her 59 total points in the first 2 rounds, 19 of them have come from the free-throw line where Clark is 19-for-21. The rest of Clark’s numbers have been off her normal output.

Against the Crusaders and Mountaineers, Clark shot a combined 39% from the floor and just 5-for-23 (22%) from 3-point range. During the regular season, Clark was shooting 45.6% from the field and 37.9% from deep. Those games were even played on Iowa’s home court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Clark did have 10 assists in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament but had just 3 against WVU, giving her a 13-to-12 assist-to-turnover ratio. Iowa has survived with some key performances from Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall, Addison O’Grady, Sydney Affolter and Hannah Stuelke, but that alone will not suffice in the Sweet 16 and beyond.

DraftKings currently has Clark’s point total vs. Colorado set at 32.5 points, and Clark will need to eclipse that number this time of year. Iowa can be great, but it’s because of Clark’s shot-making ability that the Hawkeyes are legitimate title contenders. If she continues to shoot under 40%, there’s virtually no path to the Final Four — much less a title — for the Hawkeyes.

Familiar foe to correct course?

Last season, Colorado and Iowa also faced off in the Sweet 16, and the two teams look very similar this time around. Of the 7 Buffs players to play 22+ minutes against the Hawkeyes, 6 are back for this year’s March Madness matchup.

Expecting things to play out exactly the same this year (Iowa won that matchup 87-77) is unwise, but the success of Clark is worth revisiting.

In 36 minutes of action, Clark shot 50% (11-for-22) from the field and 4-for-9 from 3-point range. To go with that shooting efficiency, she had 8 assists and 4 turnovers for a 2-to-1 ratio.

The Hawkeyes do not have McKenna Warnock or Monika Czinano this time around, and those 2 veterans combined for 27 points against Colorado. However, there’s no denying this team finds its success off of Clark, and she will try to use the familiarity of last season’s matchup to jumpstart her NCAA Tournament.

On the bright side, Clark’s worst basketball of the tournament may be behind her, but she will need to be Iowa’s superstar to get another deep run in the Big Dance.