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NCAAW Analysis: South Carolina Eyes Perfect Ending

All eyes will be on undefeated South Carolina as well as Iowa’s record-breaking Caitlin Clark as the NCAA women’s Division I tournament gets underway. The Gamecocks lead the way in the March Madness odds.

LSU, the defending national champion, may need to beat Clark and Iowa again just to get back to the Final Four.

NCAAW Analysis: South Carolina Eyes Perfect Ending
NCAAW Analysis: South Carolina Eyes Perfect Ending

The tournament gets underway on Wednesday when Sacred Heart meets Presbyterian in Columbia, S.C., in a First Four game, along with a matchup between Columbia and Vanderbilt in Blacksburg, Va.

Speaking of Blacksburg, keep an eye on the status of Virginia Tech star forward Elizabeth Kitley. She was injured late in the regular season and missed the ACC tournament. The Hokies kept her availability quiet since news of her being sidelined might have kept them from hosting the subregional as a top 16 seed.

When looking at our odds of winning March Madness, South Carolina (-120), Iowa (+650) and LSU (+650) lead the way in the odds of winning the NCAAW title.

Albany, N.Y., and Portland, Ore. will each host two of the four regionals with the four regional winners advancing to the Final Four in Cleveland on April 5-7.

History in Sight for No. 1 South Carolina

Even after seeing star forward Aliyah Boston become the first overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft and Laeticia Amihere and Zia Cooke joining Boston as first-round draft picks, South Carolina enters the NCAA Tournament as the team to beat according to the Las Vegas odds.

South Carolina needed an improbable late 3-pointer by 6-foot-7 center Kamilla Cardoso to stun Tennessee in the SEC semifinals and then outlasted defending national champion LSU in the SEC final to improve to 32-0.

South Carolina has a chance to become the 10th women’s NCAA Division I team to finish a season undefeated. The 1985-86 Texas team was the first one to accomplish that feat. UConn went undefeated six times while the 1997-98 Tennessee and 2011-12 Baylor squads also went through the season without a loss.

Setting the Stage

The NCAA women’s selection committee has changed over the years but the stigma of the committee trying to generate drama with its matchups never seems to fade.

It would have been a strong bet to go with South Carolina and LSU to be on a collision course in the Final Four after things got out of control in the SEC tournament final with multiple players being ejected. It would also have been a given that LSU and Iowa would be together after the trash-talking that took place during and after the 2023 national title game. A potential Iowa-LSU game could attract plenty of action from those who bet online.

Surprise, surprise, surprise: Both of those scenarios are in play for a tournament that has been referred to as the ESPN National Tournament because of some previous bracket manipulations.

Can UConn Return to the Final Four?

Southern California, led by dynamic freshman JuJu Watkins, is coming off a run to the Pac-12 title before the impending implosion of one of the best conferences in women’s basketball history.

However, the Trojans are not the team that is going to generate most of the buzz.

Beginning in 2008, UConn had reached the Final Four in every season that a tournament was held until being eliminated by Ohio State in last year’s tournament.

Despite losing multiple players to injury during the season, UConn won the Big East regular season and tournament titles. Led by the duo of Paige Buecker and Aaliyah Edwards, UConn is a No. 3 seed in one of the two brackets being held in Portland.

UConn’s quest to return to the Final Four might overshadow what USC has accomplished this season.

A UConn-Ohio State rematch is a possibility in the regional semifinals as well.

Power Conferences Dominate the Field

More than half the field comes out of five conferences.

The ACC and SEC lead the way with eight teams in the field of 68 followed by the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 with seven selections each.

No conference has more than one No. 1 seed with South Carolina, Texas, Iowa and Southern California earning the top seeds.

If the top two seeds reach each of the regional finals, there could be a pair of Pac-12 versus Big Ten matchups with a spot in the Final Four on the line.

Iowa is the top seed in Albany Regional 2 with UCLA the No. 2 seed. LSU, Kansas State and Colorado are other teams to watch in that bracket.

A USC-Ohio State matchup in the Portland Regional 3 final could be a fun game to watch. There are three ACC teams among the top seven seeds in that regional.

Texas is the only conference tournament champion among the top 10 seeds in Portland Regional 4, with Stanford and North Carolina State among the teams capable of punching their ticket to the Final Four.

Notre Dame, Oregon State and Indiana are the top challengers to South Carolina in Albany Regional 1.

A Look at the Numbers

South Carolina began the season tied with Utah and Virginia Tech for the fourth-best odds to win the national title behind LSU, UConn and Iowa.

Texas came in at +2600 in the odds to win March Madness and that is still better than USC’s odds that weren’t even showing up on some sportsbooks.

Among the teams that failed to earn a March Madness bid, Arkansas and Washington had the best championship odds at +10000.



Questions of the Day

Which team had the best odds to win the women’s Division I national title when the season began?

Defending national champion Louisiana State was priced at +300 with UConn next at +550 in the odds of winning March Madness before the first game was played during the 2023-24 women’s college basketball season.

Which team is the defending champion in the women’s NCAA Division I tournament?

LSU is trying to win back-to-back national titles and looking to do it without earning a No. 1 seed in either tournament.

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