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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

South Carolina claims top seed in N.C.A.A. Women’s Tournament

The field is established for the 2023 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament, with South Carolina, the top seed and defending champion, leading the way. The Gamecocks, who just finished their first perfect regular season in the history of the school, are anticipated to serve as the linchpin of their section of the bracket as they compete in their regional in Greenville, South Carolina.

But, South Carolina has been within a hair’s breadth of defeating two teams that it may potentially meet in the N.C.A.A. tournament: the No. 2 seed UConn and the Stanford Cardinal. Earlier in the season, Stanford was in a position to win the game against South Carolina or send it into a second overtime, but Stanford forward Kiki Iriafen called a timeout when her team was out of them, which resulted in a technical foul, and South Carolina made two free throws to effectively end the game. Stanford went on to lose the game. UConn, on the other hand, was able to effectively neutralise South Carolina’s forward Aliyah Boston in the first half of their showdown in February by lowering its whole defence into the painted area. The game was played against South Carolina. In spite of a second-half scoring explosion by Boston that resulted in 23 points, South Carolina was able to pull out the victory.

UConn has been dominant in the sport for a significant portion of the last two decades, winning 10 championships since the year 2000 and 111 consecutive games at one time. Nevertheless, UConn hasn’t been able to defend its title since 2016, as they were defeated by South Carolina in the championship game for the first time ever in 2018. UConn’s record versus South Carolina’s Gamecocks over the last four games is three wins and one loss.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma voiced his displeasure with the officials after his team’s defeat against South Carolina earlier this season. He said that guard Lou Lopez Sénéchal had bruises, which South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley seemed to interpret as an insult. Staley said that “We’ve been called so many things, and I’m sick of it,” adding that “We don’t disparage anybody’s play.” They are constantly working to improve the women’s basketball game, but while we were having our asses handed to us by UConn for all those years, I kept quiet.

When South Carolina defeated UConn in the championship game of the previous season with a score of 64–49, it seemed as if a definitive changing of the guard had occurred. The concept that South Carolina will become the next dynasty in college basketball has been made a reality by the team’s play so far this season. South Carolina was already on its way to become the next dynasty.

It is anticipated that other teams with dynamic talents, such as the No. 2 seed Iowa and the Virginia Tech Hokies, will give South Carolina a push for their money. UConn is another team that comes into the tournament having won seven of its past eight games, including a victory against Villanova in the championship game of the Big East Conference tournament that was very easy to achieve. Unfortunately, due to a number of injuries that it has had this season, its performance has been inconsistent. Paige Bueckers, the greatest player on the team, had a torn knee ligament in an August pickup game, which resulted in her being sidelined for the whole season. These problems started before the start of the regular season. Ice Brady, a young player with a lot of potential, had a knee injury in preseason practise that kept her out of action for the whole year. She dislocated the patella in her right knee. When the injuries continued to mount, UConn was forced to postpone its game against DePaul on January 7 because it had just six players available for competition. In addition, Auriemma was out for four games due to sickness this season.

The good news for UConn is that its standout sophomore guard Azzi Fudd, who has been sidelined all season long with knee issues and missed a total of 22 games this season, has returned to the team’s lineup. Fudd was given the all-clear to play again just in time for the conference tournament, and he went on to score 11 points in the championship game. On Saturday, the 15th-seeded Vermont team will take on UConn.

In the meanwhile, Stanford is stumbling into the tournament, having lost two of its past three games, the most recent of which was a setback to U.C.L.A. in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Conference tournament. That was the first time in Stanford’s history that they did not make.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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