South Carolina and the 67 teams trying to ruin the Gamecocks’ perfect season
The 2023 NCAA Women’s Tournament bracket is here, and the March Madness is only a few days away, with the top four scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday before the first-round competition wraps up on Friday and continues on Saturday.
Defending champion South Carolina is six wins away from an undefeated season, and while the Gamecocks are the favorites to win it all, a few other teams have something to say about it. The Big Ten regular season champion Indiana went through most of the season with just one loss, impressing both ends of the floor after outstanding performances from Mackenzie Holmes and Grace Berger. Stanford, the second Pac-12 regular season champion, has also made two straight Final Fours, and behind All-Americans Cameron Brink and Hayley Jones are looking to make it three times.
National Player of the Year nominee Caitlin Clark is looking to lead Big Ten champion Iowa to her first Final Four since 1993. be at the peak at the right time with stars Azzi Fudd and Caroline DuCharme back in the dell.
ACC Tournament champion Virginia Tech had a historic season and are one of the hottest teams in the tournament while Maryland went above and beyond expectations exceeding expectations despite losing many players in the offseason. And the Utah, who shared the regular season conference title with Stanford, are also an intriguing team that shone in the Pac-12 game behind the brilliance of Alyssa Peley.
Will South Carolina repeat itself, or could someone overthrow the Gamecocks? Which teams will make surprise runs and which will fall short of expectations? Are there any Cinderella releases left and which player will become a March Madness legend? Here’s everything you need to know about all 68 teams in the tournament. To view a list of the 32 NCAA Autos, click here. (Editor’s Note: All team information provided by Alexa Philippou unless otherwise noted.)
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South Carolina Gamecocks
Gamecocks haven’t lost since last year’s version of this list. This pretty much sums it up. After a 38-game winning streak that began last season and was marked by the national title, Coach Don Staley’s team is in first place overall on the grid and six wins away from becoming the fourth program to repeat as national champions by joining UConn. Tennessee and USC. South Carolina will also be the fifth school to achieve an undefeated season, along with the University of California, Tennessee, Baylor and Texas.
Despite point guard Destanny Henderson losing to the WNBA, the Gamecocks (32-0) regular season and tournament SEC champion is even better, deeper and more balanced than when they won it all in Minneapolis in 2022. Reigning National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston is still brilliant, but Zia Cook was more effective offensively, Kirra Fletcher and Raven Johnson were a solid tandem at this point, and Camilla Cardozo, sixth SEC Player of the Year, was a nightmare for opposing teams. deal with the bench. The Gamecocks have achieved their characteristic defensive dominance with improved offense – and good luck trying to keep them off the glass (they rank second in the country with 49.6 RPGs).
Staley challenged her team with a tough non-conference roster that included the University of Connecticut, Stanford, UCLA and Maryland. Even in games where they trailed by double digits (e.g. Cardinal by 12 and Husky by 11), the Gamecocks never lost their temper, relying on maturity and experience to pull together and emerge victorious. Their senior class, led by Boston, Cook, Brea Beal and Letitia Amicher, has gone 125-8 throughout their Columbia career, and as the season progresses, it looks more and more like the group will help Staley make history. again in April.
What a season it was for Indiana. The Hoosiers won their first Big Ten regular season title since 1983 and sold out the Simon Skjodt Hall for the first time. Indiana made the Elite Eight in 2021, but this COVID-19-affected season has prevented the Hoosiers from sharing the same success with their fans. It was one of the Big Ten’s best regular seasons, and the Hoosiers truly became a major national team in Coach Teri Moren’s ninth year on the program.
Forward Mackenzie Holmes is averaging 22.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds on 68.8% shooting from the field – second in Division I and best among Power 5 teams – and has been mentioned in national player of the year conversations. Guard Grace Berger (12.5 ppg) missed eight games in her fifth season at Bloomington with a knee injury but was able to return as a key player in January. Berger and Chloe Moore-McNeil have 276 assists this season. Transfers Sydney Parrish, Sarah Scalia and freshman Yarden Garson were big additions, averaging 32 points per game for Indiana.
The Hoosiers were also the top defensive team during Big Ten play, allowing league opponents to average just 64.1 points per game. Losing the regular season finals to a buzzer in Iowa and then a big comeback against Ohio State in the Big Ten semi-finals disappointed the Hoosiers. But they had time to think it over and prepare for a long run in the NCAA Tournament. — M. A. Vopel
The Cardinal remains one of the favorites to hit Dallas, but it feels like a different season from a year ago. Stanford entered the 2022 NCAA Tournament with a 20-game winning streak, including a dominant run in the Pac-12 Tournament. The team was also undefeated in conferences last season. There was an impulse. The Cardinal has lost four times in the Pac-12 competition this season, including a loss in the semi-finals of the tournament to UCLA. They are still the second regular season champions and one of the best teams in the country, with more victories against strong opponents than any other team except South Carolina. There are just more fears than usual.
The normally smooth, smooth offense would strangely disappear from time to time: a near-zero first quarter in Colorado; 46 points in a loss to USC. According to HerHoopStats.com, it still ranks as the fifth-highest number of attacks in the country. There were just doubtful moments.
Cameron Brink has become a star, providing Tara VanDerveer with two players, as well as Hayley Jones, who she can turn to at a crucial moment. If sophomore Brooke Demetre and high school student Hannah Jump make the effort, Stanford has almost too many options. Otherwise, Brink and Jones will carry a heavy burden. If Stanford makes it to a third straight Final Four, two All-Americans are in the lead. — Charlie Cream
Virginia Tech Hawkeyes
Virginia Tech may have been a sidekick in the ACC and the national scene for years, but those days are long gone. Seventh-year coach Kenny Brooks leads the Hokies (27-4) in their third straight NCAA Tournament, this time after leading them to the program’s first ACC tournament title (as a 3rd) – even more impressive considering Aisha Sheppard, Best of scorer of the program until recently, left for the WNBA in the summer. They won 11 consecutive games leading up to the Big Dance, defeating the likes of Duke, Louisville, North Carolina State, the University of North Carolina, and Florida State in that time, as well as for outstanding consecutive ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth. Keatley, as well as Georgia Amour, who set an ACC tournament record with 14 3-pointers, on her way to becoming the MVP of the tournament. Maryland transfer Ashley Owusu played a smaller role than expected, but other Portal additions (Taylor Soul, Kayana Traylor, D’Asia Gregg) were key to the success of the Hokies.
Inspired by their early first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament last season, Brooks’ team is looking to make it past the opening weekend for the first time since 1999. help the Hokies extend their postseason in the coming weeks and possibly go down in history.
The 2021-22 season at UCLA has been uneventful. Then 2022-23 happened. After sky-high expectations that a healthy Paige Buekers and Azzie Fudd could avenge the Huskies’ loss in the 2022 national title game, the Huskies had to work without the former for an entire season (anterior cruciate ligament tear) and the latter (knee injury). ) throughout the season. most of it. Several other players, most notably Caroline DuCharme, dealt with injuries, and even coach Geno Auriemma took two short breaks from the team midway through the season, as he mourned his mother’s death and felt “weatherless and drained”.
Except for a three-week stretch in February when UConn struggled to get rid of Big East rivals and lost to Marquette and the St. Johns, Oriemma’s team (29-5) looked the same as usual. The Huskies won regular season and conference tournament titles, but no moment was as promising as their close loss to No. 1 South Carolina without Fudd. Fairfield transfer Lou Lopez Seneschal was a revelation, and Alia Edwards’ maturation as a junior gives UConn a strong inner presence that he hasn’t had in a while. With Fudd back in the lineup, the Huskies have a forward and knockout shooter who can open the game with a flurry of 3-pointers. To advance to the Final Four for the 15th consecutive time, the Huskies must develop their rampage in the Big East tournament, rebuild their chemistry with Fudd, and most likely get the most out of their superstar when they need it most. .
Caitlin Clark is the first name that comes to mind when talking about Iowa, but experience also plays a big role in Hawkeyes. Clarke, Monica Chinano, Gabby Marshall, Keith Martin and McKenna Warnock started 86 games together. Iowa puts on a great performance…