South Carolina holds three wins over AP top-25 teams in Baylor, Maryland, and South Dakota, with their only loss coming to Indiana at Paradise Jam. They also hold wins over Duke and Purdue as they get set to navigate an extremely challenging SEC. On February 10, they take a short break from conference play to welcome UConn to Columbia for what should be a matchup of top-5 teams. Heading into the NCAA tournament there will be very few teams that will have played a more challenging schedule than Dawn Staley’s team.
The Gamecocks are in incredibly interesting team to keep an eye on, as they balance both veteran leadership and youth. This is quickly portrayed when looking at their top four scorers. Seniors Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (12.9 PPG) and Tyasha Harris (11.8 PPG) were a part of the 2017 national championship team, while newcomers Aliyah Boston (12.6 PPG) and Zia Cooke (10.4 PPG), have helped Staley secure arguably the country’s best freshman class. Brea Beal, another freshman, has joined Boston and Cooke in starting all 13 games for South Carolina.
They are also the only team to hold wins over other teams on this list of five (Baylor and Maryland). South Carolina is currently 10th in the country in scoring offense and 13th in scoring defense. That defense was on display in both wins over the Terrapins and the Bears, holding both teams to under 60 points.
Teams with the most legitimate gripes
For those that follow me, you know how much I love this Oregon State team. This was the toughest elimination for me. While head coach Scott Rueck has been to a final four, the Beavers fell short in criteria three, albeit just barely. Oregon State’s 22nd ranked scoring offense knocked them out of the conversation. That will be something to keep an eye on, as the Beavers scoring defense is ranked 14th.
Close has yet to make it to a final four, which eliminated the Bruins early, but they are currently ranked in the top-50 in both scoring offense (45th) and scoring defense (22nd). They are also coming off of a Sweet 16 appearance last year, in which they upset Maryland in College Park, and battled UConn in Albany, before falling just short. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was the year that Close and the Bruins got to the final four.
Stanford has some really good wins so far this season, defeating the likes of Gonzaga, Syracuse, and Mississippi State, with their only loss coming on the road at Texas. If their 19th ranked scoring offense was the factor didn’t ultimately eliminate them (which it did), then their 65th ranked scoring defense would have. That said, they have one of the best head coaches in the history of basketball in Tara VanDerveer, and a team that, while still very young, has a ton of depth and a ton of talent. They were my preseason pick to win the championship this year. There’s still time for them to meet this criteria before March!
There you have it. When bracket comes out in March, be sure to look for these five teams. Now, rankings can certainly change if teams hit slumps, tough parts of a schedule, or suffer unfortunate injuries, but now you have the formula.
Unfortunately, I’m not prepared to give you a winner at this time, but the 2020 national champion will be one of these five teams. Book it…for now.
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