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An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

The Georgia Student Finance Commission collaborated with 49 Georgia colleges to waive application fees in March. This removed barriers for Midtown students who were previously unable to apply to certain colleges.
Georgia Colleges waive application fees, remove barriers
Brennan FrittsApril 15, 2024

The Georgia Student Finance Commission partnered with nearly 50 colleges throughout Georgia to waive their application fees during March. Midtown...

Women’s March Madness teams to watch

The+South+Carolina+Gamecocks+are+heavy+favorites+for+the+2024+March+Madness+Tournament+following+an+undefeated+regular+season+and+a+79-72+win+over+LSU+in+the+SEC+Championship.
AP News
The South Carolina Gamecocks are heavy favorites for the 2024 March Madness Tournament following an undefeated regular season and a 79-72 win over LSU in the SEC Championship.

The 2023-24 NCAA Women’s Basketball season was full of broken records, from the Big 10 Tournament selling out for the first time ever, to freshmen JuJu Watkins from the University of Southern California and Hannah Hidalgo from Notre Dame breaking long standing records at their schools and to Caitlin Clark setting the new NCAA scoring record.

This excitement is sure to continue into the post-season tournament, where two standout teams are looking to etch their names into the record books: the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Stanford Cardinal.

South Carolina
The South Carolina Gamecocks are coming off a string of successful seasons, after losing in the semi-finals in 2021, winning the tournament in 2022 and losing in an upset in the semi-finals in the 2023 tournament. Coming into the season, most people were looking down on the Gamecocks, as they had five graduated players who were all drafted in the 2023 WNBA Draft and their returning players had mostly come in as past subs who didn’t receive much playing time.

Despite this, the Gamecocks very quickly climbed the AP Polls, jumping from a preseason ranking of, what most people already assumed to be way too high, sixth place, to first in a matter of two weeks. After getting to the top, they remained there. The Gamecocks are, for the second year in a row, entering the tournament with an undefeated record of 32-0.

This 32-0 record was filled with a number of blowout wins, but towards the end of the season, it started to get rocky. The Gamecocks blew a 23 point lead to the University of Tennessee in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, and were saved by senior center Kamilla Cardoso banking a three, the first three of her career, at the last second. Then, in the SEC Championship, they squeaked out with a 79-72 win over defending March Madness Champions, LSU.

The team is led by Cardoso, who is averaging 14 points per game (ppg) and 9.5 rebounds per game (rpg). Senior guard Ta-Hina Paopao, a transfer from University of Oregon, is contributing 11.1 ppg on 47.1% shooting from the 3-point line and 3.7 assists per game (apg). The rest of their starting line-up consists of guards Bree Hall (9.7 ppg, 40% from three) and Raven Johnson (4.9 apg, 2 steals per game), and forward Chloe Kitts (9.2 ppg, 6 rpg). The team also has two other players coming off the bench and making a big impact: freshman Malaysia Fulwiley (11.8 ppg, 2.3 apg) and sophomore Ashlyn Watkins (9.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg).

The Gamecocks play a fast and aggressive game, one that is very hard to defend. The team’s downfall last season was their inability to shoot the three, but this year they are shooting 39.7% compared to last year’s 31%. Overall, the Gamecocks starting five has proven to be solid. However, what really tips them over the edge and above other teams is their ability to put in subs and the level of skill staying the same, which is not a common occurrence for a lot of teams. When Cardoso had to miss a couple of games due to international games, Watkins was able to step right in and score some big buckets, and the Gamecocks were able to play their normal game.

With this being said, their downfall could also be their bench. Their roster consists of four freshmen and three sophomores. Even though many of these players have been playing in games, they haven’t experienced the pressure that a March Madness tournament has. If these underclassmen let the big moments get in their head, the team could be in for a result that they will not be happy with. Despite their age, they seem to have the most balanced lineup going into the tournament, making them a likely title contender.

Stanford Cardinal
The 28-6 Cardinal have had arguably one of the toughest schedules in college basketball this year. The Pac-12 conference this year was the best conference in women’s basketball, with six of the 12 teams being ranked in the AP Top 25. The teams first loss was to then unranked Gonzaga, who are now coming in at eighth on the AP Poll.

The Cardinal then dropped three games in Conference play, with losses to 18th ranked Colorado, unranked Arizona and two losses to fifth ranked USC. One of these USC losses came in the Pac-12 Championship. Even though they dropped two games to USC, the Trojans are likely not going to do as well in the tournament. The first game that USC beat Stanford in was won by freshman Juju Watkins, who had a career-high 51 point game. In the Conference Championship, graduate student McKenzie Forbes had 26 points, almost double her average ppg. The Cardinal are overall a better team and are more prepared than the Trijans, they just got unlucky with breakout games.

Despite these losses, Stanford is still a heavy title contender. Coming into the season, there were a lot of questions surrounding the team, after they had lost as a 1-seed in the second round of the March Madness tournament to Ole Miss. The graduation of guard Haley Jones and the transferring of number-one ranked recruit in the class of 2022, post Lauren Betts, to UCLA, made the future of the Cardinal very up-in-the-air.

The team is led by their strong post presence in both 6’3” junior Kiki Iriafen, 18.6 ppg and 11 rpg, and 6’4” senior Cameron Brink, 17.8 ppg and 12 rpg. They have caused problems in Pac-12 play, as most teams don’t have two tall and capable posts that can guard these players. They have a consistent point guard, sophomore Talana Lepolo, who is averaging 3.9 apg. She isn’t much of a scoring threat, but the Cardinals don’t need her to be with the post presence that Brink and Iriafen have down low. Senior Hannah Jump is another scoring threat, averaging 10.3 ppg on 36.2% shooting from three. Juniors Brooke Demetre, 6.3 ppg, and Elena Bosgana, 6.5 ppg, have also proven to be valuable weapons, whether starting or coming off the bench.

Although the Cardinal have lost six games, they are still one of the favorites for winning the tournament. The strength of their schedule and the skill of the teams in the Pac-12 have readily prepared them for anyone that the tournament can throw at them. Having two strong posts makes it practically impossible to protect the paint, putting too much help on one of them leads to a breakout game for the other.

The concern regarding the Cardinal is their bench lineup, because they only have six players averaging above 15 minutes a game, compared to South Carolina’s eight. This can be traced back to every game in the Pac-12 being highly competitive, in comparison to the weaker SEC Conference schedule that South Carolina had. Having such a small number of players that have substantial game time could cost them in the later rounds when the first six players are getting tired. Despite this, the Cardinal have a very good shot at walking out of March Madness with a Championship trophy.

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About the Contributor
Sinclair Richman
Sinclair Richman, Sports Associate Managing Editor
Sinclair Richman is a junior and this is her third year writing for The Southerner. In her free time, she plays basketball and soccer for Midtown and is a part of the BETA Club and Latin club. She is excited to continue working on the paper.

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