COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s women’s basketball officially posted the longest single-season winning streak in program history, following last week’s 27-game winning streak in Alabama.
The No. 1 Gamecocks (21-0) face a big non-conference test against No. 5 Connecticut (20-2) in Hartford on Sunday (noon, FOX). This is the first ranked matchup since South Carolina beat his No. 1 at the time. It’s a rematch against UCLA on December 15, as well as a rematch of the 2022 NCAA championship game that the Gamecocks swept him 64-49.
From the ongoing point guard battle to this season’s SEC struggles, here are the biggest questions for South Carolina ahead of the showdown.
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Who is the biggest threat to South Carolina’s undefeated season?
No. 3 LSU is the highest-ranked opponent remaining on the Gamecocks schedule, but it’s not the opponent fans need to worry about most. South Carolina has Colonial Life at his best in the arena, and his crowd at a sold-out home when the Tigers come to Columbia is a huge advantage. LSU also thrives in matchups where it can dominate the paint. This is a nearly impossible feat for Gamecocks size and depth.
Sunday’s matchup with Connecticut will take place in front of a hostile crowd of 16,000 at the XL Center. UConn also has very different strengths than his Gamecocks, which makes for a more challenging matchup. Huskies is a sharpshooter, her five players averaging over 50% from the field leading her 61% forward Aaliyah Edwards. They are second in the nation in her 3-point shooting, and senior Lou Lopez Senechal is her third with 48.6%.
The Gamecocks also face potential upsets in back-to-back road matchups with Ole Miss and Tennessee after playing LSU. The Lady Vols, in particular, started two of the conference’s most talented players, Jordan Houston and Rikia Jackson, and LSU lost to him by single digits, making him one of the two most talented SEC teams. is one.
Should Raven Johnson be the starting point guard?
Alumnus Kiera Fletcher established himself as a point guard early on, but redshirt freshman Raven Johnson is beginning to emerge as a true star. She has won more minutes than Fletcher in every game since her January 5 Auburn, and topped her season average in each of those games. Only twice in her first 15 games did she shoot more than 50% of her shots from the field, but in her last six games she averaged 62%. In the win over Alabama, Johnson had her seven points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Not that Fletcher fell, but she struggled offensively, shooting the 0-5 Crimson Tide from the field. She’s the top five rebounder on the team, averaging 3.7 per game, and has come in big moments. Her best game was against UCLA where she had 12 points and she had 10 rebounds and she was number 14.
The two point guards are incredibly different players, and despite Johnson’s high ceiling, Fletcher as a starter still makes the most sense.Fletcher brings consistency and experience to the floor. Johnson is a blast of energy coming off the bench, and her flashy passes force opponents to make sudden in-game adjustments. Your current rotation is working and if it’s not broken don’t fix it.
How competitive is the SEC this season?
The SEC has not lived up to the hype this season. South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU all made the top 20 preseason, but the Lady Vols have been out of the vote since Week 4.
Lack of depth is where the SEC really suffers. Kentucky, the reigning champion of the conference tournament, has an overall losing record and only two SEC wins for him. Missouri defeated South Carolina last season but is on a six-game losing streak. Fourth-placed Arkansas is sixth, losing the conference record.
The Big Ten is a distinct top conference with 4 teams in the top 10 and 5 teams in the top 20. ACC is not far behind with 4 of the 6 ranked teams in the top 15. Stanford leads the Pac-12’s four ranked teams. 2nd place overall. The rise of other conferences won’t have much of an impact on South Carolina, but some of the medium-sized SEC programs could easily be shut out of the NCAA tournament.