LSU-South Carolina picks and predictions: Who will be the last unbeaten D-I team?

After this weekend, there will be only one undefeated team in Collegiate Basketball Division I. But will it be No. 1 in South Carolina or No. 3 in LSU? The Gamecocks (24-0) and Tigers (23-0) face off Sunday (2:00 pm ET, Sportzshala/Sportzshala App) at the sold-out Colonial Life Arena in South Carolina in one of the most anticipated games of the women’s basketball season. Both teams are 11-0 in the SEC.

The Gamecocks are the reigning national champions and have a 30 win streak. They’re coming off a win over UCLA last Sunday and Thursday’s win over Auburn.

Last week, LSU walked the tightrope with three close wins, including one in overtime. But the Tigers are still undefeated and are looking forward to their first win against the Gamecocks since 2012. LSU leads the series 22-17, but South Carolina has won the last 13 in a row.

It’s also a big one-on-one showdown as South Carolina high school student Alia Boston and LSU sophomore Angel Reese go head-to-head. Along with Iowa defenseman Caitlin Clark, they are considered favorites for the national Player of the Year award.

Reese has double-doubled in every Tigers game this season for 23 in a row. That’s four short of Boston’s 27th in a row, a record set last season for the longest double-double streak by an SEC player. Boston has 76 double-doubles, the third in SEC history behind former LSU star Sylvia Fowles’ 86 from 2004 to 2008.

South Carolina has won or tied the SEC regular season championship six of its last nine seasons under coach Don Staley. LSU, which last won the regular season title in 2008, finished second in the SEC last year in Coach Kim Mulkey’s first season with the Tigers.

On Sunday, one of them will be the favorite for the 2023 SEC regular season. We analyze the game and predict the winner.

How will Boston and Reese fit together? Will Reese keep his streak of double-doubles?

Cream: The star is already shining brightly on Reese, but the big game and win on Sunday will V moment. This will also be her biggest problem. Given LSU’s weak non-conference schedule in the first half of the season, the seasoned 6-foot-3 Reese was the most physically imposing and gifted player on the court. The SEC season was a step up in size and strength, and playing against Big Ten teams last season in Maryland meant Reese played against physical teams. However, South Carolina and Boston in particular present a completely different problem. Reese still needs to get her numbers, but they’ll be harder to find. As is often the case with Boston, she can give up a little early in the game, but by the end of the game, she tends to take over. I suspect she’ll wear down Reese the same way.

Wowple: Reese’s rebounding is one of the most impressive things we’ve seen this college season. It’s not just her jumping ability, but the fact that she can catch rebounds powerfully with one hand and she has such a nose for the ball. The 6-foot-3 forward is second in Division I and top of the Power 5 in rebounding at 15.8 per game. So the double-double series is likely to continue.

Boston hasn’t had many major problems this season, simply because few players have been close to her caliber and she and the Gamecocks have dominated many of their games. So, most likely, she will take advantage of this opportunity. As Charlie said, the 6ft 5in Boston is the most ruthless defensive center in the country. Reese will have to deal not only with Boston, but with all the defenders the Gamecocks can bring in, including 6-7 Camille Cardoso.

What is the main key or X-factor that will determine this opposition?

Cream: LSU must source products from at least two other players besides Reese, and Alexis Morris must be one of them. The Tigers don’t necessarily need a big scoring night from Morris; the goal is for her to control the play when she has the ball, be efficient, lead in transition play, and allow her teammates to open shots. South Carolina is already producing more possession through offensive rebounds, which is why LSU, especially Morris and Kateri Pool, can’t pass the ball and create even more opportunities for the Gamecocks. Raven Johnson played well against UConn and became a much more important part of South Carolina’s offense, but if LSU doesn’t win the point guard match, the road to victory will be very difficult.

Wowple: Indeed, losses in this game can be very large. South Carolina has a lot of ways to get them and then really take advantage. The Gamecocks are the strongest team in the country, which is why Staley became the favorite for the championship. There are South Carolina players who could have been bigger individual stars elsewhere but are perfect for their roles on such a good team. This means opponents simply can’t afford to make many mistakes against them because they won’t be able to win by giving South Carolina too many chances for easier points.

“Perhaps the most frustrating part of my job is the unnecessary waste,” Mulkey said. “You have to be stronger with the ball in your hands, you have to make the right decisions and you can’t make soft passes.”

What did LSU see in Sunday’s clash between South Carolina and Connecticut that could help dethrone the No. 1 Gamecocks this week?

Cream: UConn’s defensive play in the first half on Sunday served as a model for the Gamecocks’ best approach to play, with the Huskies filling in the paint and being pleased with the South Carolina defenders shooting at the jump. It worked – for a while. The Gamecocks shot 34.2% from the field in the first half, capping Boston’s touches (she was 0 for 5 from the field in the first half).

However, this strategy is not foolproof because South Carolina is so good and can adapt. Even if Johnson, Brea Beal and Zia Cook keep missing, it’s pointless if Boston and Cardoso keep repeating those misses. Eventually, the size and insight of South Carolina bored the smaller huskies. Boston had 23 points and eight rebounds after the break, and the Gamecox finished with 25 second chance points. However, the strategy must remain the same for the Tigers. Completing a 40-minute game plan against the ruthless South Carolina is a real challenge.

Wowple: LSU is facing the same thing as UConn in that game: on one of the rare occasions this season, the Tigers were underdogs. UConn tried to use this energy and did well with it, although not enough to win.

Mulkey is trying to moderate expectations to some extent because she knows how difficult South Carolina is.

“I don’t see it as a rivalry, no one is on their level. They are so good,” Mulkey said of this year’s matchup.

However, Mulkey is thrilled by the challenge and delighted to have LSU in such a meaningful game.

What is at stake in terms of braketology?

Cream: This is the LSU moment. Any discussion about the Tigers’ weak schedule without going to conferences ends up in victory over the best team in the country. LSU will no longer be a mystery, and Sunday’s win will make the Tigers worthy of the #1 seed. Even a good performance in a loss would speak volumes.

If LSU competes with South Carolina in the same way that UConn did last Sunday, it will also answer the question of whether the Tigers are really in the national elite. That, plus a flawless run to the end of the road, or at least to a possible final SEC tournament rematch with the Gamecocks, and some help elsewhere – Stanford stumbling over a tight schedule, or UConn unable to regain their level of play after months. ago – that will be enough for LSU to take first place in Sunday’s preselection.

Which team will win?

Wowple: Contact Gamecocks to help protect your home. South Carolina hasn’t lost at home since December 3, 2020 against North Carolina State. This is the only time the Gamecocks have fallen at Colonial Life Arena in the last four seasons short of this. To say that they are invincible may be too much, but it’s close. No one has beaten them anywhere this season, and it will continue to do so.

Cream: Sunday’s result means more to LSU as a whole, but let’s not forget that this game will essentially decide the SEC title. This is primarily on the mind of Gamecocks. With so much at stake and crowd support in Columbia, South Carolina should be the choice – and the difference will be double digits.


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