Who wins? Does a scarcity of depth meet up with the Huskies?

Ten months in the past, South Carolina and UConn met inside the nationwide championship recreation. The Gamecocks gained the title and have not misplaced since.

They face off as quickly as extra Sunday inside the XL coronary heart in Hartford, Connecticut.

The Gamecocks are 22-zero and projected as a consequence of the No. 1 whole seed inside the NCAA match. The Huskies have misplaced twice this season — to Notre Dame and Maryland inside the principal two weeks of December — and have dealt with a plethora of accidents. however they’re nonetheless the No. 5 staff inside the nation and are additionally projected as a No. 1 seed in ESPN’s latest Bracketology.

Sunday’s recreation marks the thirteenth meeting between the packages. The collection wasn’t a lot of a rivalry till 2020, when South Carolina beat UConn for the principal time after eight losses. The Gamecocks are since three-1 inside the collection.

What can we count on from each teams inside the final extreme-profile nonconference matchup of the common season? ESPN’s Charlie Creme, Alexa Philippou and M.A. Voepel break down the sport and what’s at stake.

How will South Carolina’s depth and UConn’s lack of obtainable gamers influence the matchup?

Charlie Creme: Depth, collectively with protection (no staff permits fewer factors per recreation), has been South Carolina’s calling card this season. On Sunday in opposition to Alabama, the bench outscored the starters. The Gamecocks have eleven gamers inside the common rotation who’re averaging double-decide minutes per recreation.

The Huskies, who will possible be taking half in their sixth recreation in simply over two weeks, solely used six gamers of their recreation final Sunday in opposition to Villanova, with Nika Muhl, Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhász taking half in all forty minutes. regardless of exhibiting good resolve to win the sport, the weariness confirmed. The fatigue was a lot extra evident in Thursday’s sluggish win over windfall. Geno Auriemma and Muhl admitted after the sport that the staff was drained.

No staff inside the nation is extra healthful at carrying down an opponent than South Carolina. UConn is liable to be proficient enough to beat its lack of depth in opposition to anyone besides the Gamecocks.

M.A. Voepel: typically depth is an overrated factor in basketball, however on this case the distinction between the teams is stark. South Carolina brings Kamilla Cardoso, Laeticia Amihere, Raven Johnson, Bree hall and Ashlyn Watkins all off the bench. that is how a lot expertise (and actually, there’s a lot extra) coach daybreak Staley has, and the gamers have purchased into her system, the place nobody averages better than 25 minutes per recreation.

The Huskies can not afford two gamers having “off” video games with out it severely affecting them. South Carolina can face up to that and extra. The Gamecocks wouldn’t want a sort of gamers to be superstar Aliyah Boston, however you’d possibly see them beating a prime-5 foe even when she wasn’t at her most interesting. To UConn’s credit rating, the Huskies have stood as a lot as all their depth challenges. As Charlie mentioned, the hardest staff inside the nation to do this in opposition to is South Carolina.

Alexa Philippou: The shorthanded Huskies put up an admirable effort in opposition to Tennessee in a hostile environment, however every recreation since we have seen the outcomes of each psychological and bodily fatigue weighing on their starters. sure, UConn has eight obtainable gamers, however its three reserves could be the final ones off the bench if the staff had been healthful. in opposition to windfall, that trio performed a mixed 27 minutes and accomplished with one level, one assist and zero rebounds. And whereas it seems Caroline Ducharme (concussion) is nearing a doable return, it is unlikely she’ll be ready by Sunday.

the scarcity of depth did not discover your self hurting UConn in opposition to Tennessee, nonetheless the Gamecocks are too good and too deep to not capitalize off their plethora of decisions. Auriemma might have his group ready and in a place to grind it out regardless of the remaining phrase consequence, however Staley simply has too many decisions and modern legs at her disposal.

Aliyah Boston and Aaliyah Edwards are two of the appropriate gamers inside the nation this season. How will they match up?

Voepel: This recreation is strategy-anticipated not merely as a consequence of it is a rematch of the 2022 nationwide championship recreation, however as a consequence of we get to see how an improved Edwards fares in opposition to Boston, who’s the measuring stick for school publish gamers.

it has been pleasurable to see how Edwards’ recreation has grown this season and the strategy properly she has embraced having masses weight on her shoulders. As a junior, she has blossomed into what we take into account as a consequence of the basic UConn publish participant: She creates a huge goal, she is relentless on the boards, she passes properly, she would not get rattled.

Boston was a expert-ready participant even final season, and she or he has had no drop-off in means even when her stats are decrease. the combination of South Carolina’s depth and the Gamecocks’ domination of lots of their opponents clarify why Boston’s numbers are down although she’s taking half in simply as properly.

Creme: Not solely is Boston a singular expertise, however her presence contained in the South Carolina system is unique. She would not want to be statistically dominant for the Gamecocks to win. A thirteen-level, eight-rebound recreation for Boston may produce the identical consequence as a 22 and 15 output. these days, Edwards ought to not be afforded that luxurious.

She has to play substantial minutes and produce huge numbers for UConn to win virtually any recreation, not to mention one in opposition to the appropriate staff inside the nation. When the two are matched up one-on-one, how efficient Edwards is making these 15-foot leap photographs on which she has improved masses will possible be important, particularly early inside the sport. that should draw Boston away from the basket, liberating up Juhász to function inside the low publish and create extra driving room for Aubrey Griffin. The extra Edwards’ athleticism and Juhász’s deep taking pictures abilities are in a place to maneuver Boston round, UConn might have extra likelihood at success.

Philippou i do not count on UConn’s posts to mix for 12 factors and 4 rebounds like they did in opposition to South Carolina inside the 2022 nationwide title recreation. An improved Edwards and healthful Juhász have made this yr’s Huskies frontcourt a lot stronger than final yr’s, they typically’ve been extra bolstered by Griffin’s return. That mentioned, UConn allowed Tennessee to dominate the offensive glass, so as that is one space the Huskies should increase in the event that they should maintain Sunday’s recreation aggressive. whereas Boston singlehandedly would not should do as a lot for South Carolina for the Gamecocks to win, a UConn upset seems inconceivable with out, possible, each Edwards and Juhász having good video games.

I nonetheless give the sting to South Carolina right here. Not solely do the Gamecocks have Boston, they’ve Cardoso and a quantity of completely different athletic forwards at their disposal, which may probably be a lot extra important if foul trouble turns into an component.

Which staff has the sting inside the backcourt?



Nika Muhl drops a no-look dime to current UConn the lead

Nika Muhl makes a nice move in transition to Aubrey Griffin for the simple layup.

Philippou: a lot focus will possible be on the Boston-Edwards showdown, however do not sleep on the battle inside the backcourt. Lou Lopez Sénéchal has been a revelation for the Huskies, although she’s appeared fatigued this week, going 1-for-eight on three-pointers throughout the previous two video games. Zia Cooke, in the meantime, has posted a profession-most interesting 2-level effectivity (forty two.zero%) and has improved her three-level clip from final yr (28.7% to 38.zero%).

As Charlie factors out under, UConn’s lack of ball handlers may actually damage the Huskies in opposition to such a defensive-minded staff as South Carolina — it is one among many causes they’ve been so turnover-susceptible although they’ve managed to protect worthwhile for basically the most half. on the tip of the day, this recreation is the place they will most miss injured Azzi Fudd‘s ballhandling, shot-creating and taking pictures.

Creme: The Huskies are basically the most interesting offense inside the nation, largely ensuing from the play of Muhl, Lopez Sénéchal and Griffin. If UConn has a bonus on this recreation, that is it. South Carolina’s guards do not play with the identical offensive crispness or shot-making means as UConn’s.

South Carolina can run waves of athletic guards at UConn’s band of three. as a consequence of foul trouble, with the doable exception of main scorer Cooke, ought to not be one factor daybreak Staley has to emphasize about, the likes of Beal, Amihere, Johnson, hall and Kierra Fletcher can play as bodily as they want. Over forty minutes that might take a toll, particularly on Muhl and Lopez Sénéchal, who’re UConn’s predominant ball handlers.

Voepel: Muhl is an outdated-school level guard: Her principal function is as a facilitator and she or he is good at it, main Division I ladies with eight.eight assists per recreation. the place would UConn be with out Lopez Sénéchal? The Fairfield Stags change seems as if she’s been with the Huskies for years. These two have been so spectacular, particularly contemplating how a lot and the strategy properly they’ve performed with Fudd and Ducharme out with accidents and Paige Bueckers lacking the season.

however South Carolina’s guard corps brings measurement, size and quickness. Cooke is main the Gamecocks in scoring (15.4) and is their most interesting three-level shooter. When she leaves the court docket, South Carolina has replacements who might not be Cooke’s offensive equal however excel defensively.

What’s at stake for the projected No. 1 seeds?

Creme: From a Bracketology perspective, South Carolina has nothing to lose, or buy, for that matter. The Gamecocks are entrenched as a No. 1 seed. A loss would not change that. in exact actuality, a loss ought to not be even virtually enough to price them the No. 1 whole spot. A win would all however lock that down.

the sport has extra that means for the Huskies. A loss, particularly an in depth one, wouldn’t immediately price them a No. 1 seed. however when UConn pulls the upset with out Fudd and Ducharme, it’d take one factor appreciable over the subsequent month to knock the Huskies out of a prime seed.

the place it will get consideration-grabbing is that if UConn will get blown out on Sunday and every week later LSU beats South Carolina — or at minimal makes it a aggressive recreation. that might probably be the appropriate case the Tigers — at present a No. 2 seed — would have of shifting previous the Huskies to a No. 1 seed.

Which staff wins Sunday?

Voepel: the strategy by which the Gamecocks have appeared, how do you decide in opposition to them? South Carolina will get the nod, for constructive. however it absolutely’s unlikely the Huskies will not play as a lot as expectations, too, as a consequence of that is what this approach does. And the XL coronary heart crowd, having so few occasions as quickly as they will rally behind a UConn staff thought of the underdog, should be very energetic. the sport may probably be shut inside the principal half, and UConn might even lead on the break. however it absolutely’s arduous to see the Gamecocks not carrying down the Huskies, taking administration and shutting them out.

Creme: UConn is actually the most appropriate subject purpose taking pictures staff inside the nation. nobody holds their opponents to a decrease proportion than the Gamecocks. it is the remaining phrase energy vs. energy matchup. however this recreation is approaching the flawed time for the Huskies. they current the impression of being worn down after two months of overcoming accidents and sickness. To beat South Carolina, even UConn should be at its peak powers. Even on the highway, that is the Gamecocks’ recreation to lose — they typically will not. The Huskies will uncover a strategy to protect shut as prolonged as they will. however forty minutes is a terribly very prolonged time, and South Carolina wins going away.

Philippou: South Carolina wins this one behind its superior depth, however when these two teams meet as quickly as extra in March or April — and UConn has Ducharme and Fudd again into the fold and taking half in at a extreme stage — the consequence may probably be a lot completely different.


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