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No. 1 overall Gamecocks ready to reclaim women's March Madness title

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The South Carolina Gamecocks enter the Women’s March Madness tournament as the overall No. 1 seed and the favourites to capture the National Championship and it’s not hard to understand how they earned that lofty position.

Head coach Dawn Staley’s team captured their second consecutive SEC tournament title on their way to the tournament, after earning their second straight SEC regular season title.

What make this one special is that the Gamecocks are the only undefeated NCAA Division 1 team remaining in either the women’s or men’s brackets heading into March Madness.

South Carolina is also motivated.

They laid claim to the SEC tournament title with a 79-72 win over the defending National title holder LSU Tigers, in an emotional game that featured a brawl where multiple players from both team were ejected late in the fourth quarter.

Senior Kamilla Cardoso leads the way for South Carolina, the 6’ 7’’ centre was named a second-team All American after averaging 14 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this season.

She also hit her first career three-pointer to beat the buzzer and lead the Gamecocks to a 74-73 win over the Tennessee Lady Vols in the semifinals of the SEC tournament, preserving their undefeated season.

Unfortunately, Cardoso will not be available when South Carolina opens the tournament against No. 16 Presbyterian Blue Hose as she will be serving a one-game suspension for pushing LSU’s Flau'jae Johnson during the SEC title-game altercation.

Guard Te-Hina Paopao was named as an All-American honourable mention for South Carolina. The Oregon transfer enters the tournament with an impressive 47.1% three-point shooting percentage (73 of155).

South Carolina’s last loss came at the hands of Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the semifinals of last season’s tournament as the Gamecocks sat two wins away from an undefeated season and a successful defence of the title they had captured the previous year.

After exiting the tournament, they also lost some of the most heralded players in the league as Canadian Laeticia Amihere as well as Zia Cooke, Victaria Saxton and Aliyah Boston, who went on the be the first-overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever, all exited the program.

Heading into the season, Staley was not deterred by the roster turnover.

"I don't care about other people's expectations of our team," Staley told CBS Sports prior to the season. "I don't care about other people's views of our team. We had the best team in the nation last year, so yeah, they had to talk about us. Now they don't deem us as the top team in the country. They probably don't have to talk about us so it really doesn't matter to me. I couldn't care less about it."

The Gamecocks entered the year as the No. 6 ranked team in the preseason poll before eventually reclaiming their place on top, something they will also hope to accomplish in the March Madness Tournament.

ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR:

Barring upsets, these are the teams South Carolina will face on their way to the Final Four:

No. 16 Presbyterian

No. 8 North Carolina

No. 4 Indiana

No. 2 Notre Dame