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NCAAW March Madness: Is South Carolina Beatable?

South Carolina looks ready to make a run at another national title with a pair of dominant wins to open up the women’s NCAA Tournament. Despite losing the players who started 182 of the 185 games a season ago, the Gamecocks head to the Sweet 16 in Albany, N.Y., for the regionals with a chance to become the 10th Division I women’s team to finish as undefeated national champions. The NCAAW predictions have South Carolina listed as the favorite to win the national title.

South Carolina will face Indiana in the Sweet 16 of the March Madness bracket on Friday at 5 p.m. in Albany. With a win, South Carolina would play either Notre Dame or Oregon State with a chance to return to the Final Four.

NCAAW March Madness: Is South Carolina Beatable?
Kamilla Cardoso #10 of the South Carolina Gamecocks | Eakin Howard/Getty Images/AFP

South Carolina is the No. 1 seed in the Albany 1 regional. The winner of that bracket would face the winner of the Portland 4 region in the national semifinals.

When looking at our odds of winning women’s March Madness, South Carolina is priced at -155 in the odds of winning the national title.


Gamecocks Rebuild in a Hurry

When you lose all five starters, a team figures to take a step back but that is not the case for the Gamecocks. Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, Brea Bea and Victaria Saxton started every game last season while Kierra Fletcher started 34 of 37 games. Raven Johnson is the only returning player for the Gamecocks who started games a season ago.

Head coach Dawn Staley had some outstanding players returning and added some talented newcomers but this is still perhaps her best coaching job.

Kamilla Cardoso, who came off the bench in all 68 games in her first two seasons after spending her freshman season at Syracuse, is averaging 13.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.6 blocked shots. She missed the first-round matchup due to her role in an altercation against LSU in the SEC tournament title game. It was an event that dominated the NCAAW news cycle.

Bree Hall has doubled her 3-point total from a season ago. Ashlyn Watkins went from putting up 4.9 points and 3.1 rebounds as a freshman to 9.6 points and 7.0 rebounds this season. Chloe Kitts has also made a huge jump from her freshman to sophomore seasons with four double-doubles this season.

Oregon transfer Te-Hina Paopao is approaching her career high in 3-pointers, giving the Gamecocks another perimeter scoring threat. She not only has 79 3-pointers but is shooting 48% from behind the arc.

Freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley looks like the next great South Carolina player. She is averaging 12.2 points despite starting just three games this season.

She has scored in double digits in three of the six games against ranked teams and had 24 points in the SEC title game against LSU. She followed that up with 37 points and four blocked shots in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament.


A Look at the March Madness Road

Indiana, a team that finished a game out of first place in the Big Ten standings, is next up for the Gamecocks. The Hoosiers are 4-3 against ranked teams this season. Indiana had to overcome an eight-point deficit to beat Oklahoma in the second round.

Notre Dame, which owns seven wins against ranked teams, will look to put up more of a fight than the Fighting Irish did in the season opener, when South Carolina shot 54.4% to roll to a 29-point win in a game played in Paris, France.

Oregon State overcame Colorado in the Pac-12 quarterfinals before falling to Stanford. In the NCAA Tournament, the Beavers won both games by at least 10 points.

Texas, Stanford and North Carolina State are the top three seeds in the Portland 4 Region and all could provide a challenge to South Carolina if that happens to be the national semifinal matchup. The BetUS sportsbook has Stanford at +1600 and Texas at +1800 in the odds to win the national title.

Caitlin Clark’s Iowa, UCLA and defending national champion LSU are all in Albany Regional 2 while the other USC (Southern California) and UConn are joined by No. 5 seed Baylor and No. 7 seed Duke in Portland Regional 3.

South Carolina has already beaten Notre Dame and UConn in addition to two wins against LSU this season.

South Carolina looks ready to make a championship run after the Gamecocks got more bench points than North Carolina had points in the most recent March Madness matchup.


A Look at the Numbers

Despite losing five starters, including three taken in the first round of the 2023 WNBA Draft, South Carolina is shooting better from the field than last season’s team.

The Gamecocks are taking and making more 3-pointers. A season ago, South Carolina took 14 3-pointers per game and shot 31% on 3-pointers. These Gamecocks take 16.6 3-pointers and are connecting on 39.8% of those shots.

The field goal percentage numbers are almost identical with South Carolina limiting opponents to 32% shooting and 26.1% on 3-pointers.

About the only area where the Gamecocks regressed is in the rebounding margin. After being +20 a season ago, South Carolina is at +12.5 this season.



Questions Of The Day

How many women's Division I women's basketball teams have gone through a season undefeated?

Texas went 34-0 during the 1985-86 season, UConn posted undefeated seasons in the 1994-95, 2001-02, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2013-14, and 2014-15 campaigns. The 1997-98 Tennessee and the 2011-12 Baylor teams also went undefeated.

What is the best finish for South Carolina in the women’s Division I basketball tournament?

South Carolina won the national championship in the 2016-17 and 2021-22 seasons.

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