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NCAA Tournament Elite Eight preview: No. 2-seed Maryland women’s basketball vs. No. 1-seed South Carolina

The Terps are seeking their first Final Four appearance since 2015.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - Greenville Regional Photo by Jacob Kupferman/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Maryland women’s basketball broke an eight-year Elite Eight drought on Saturday, defeating No. 3-seed Notre Dame, 76-59.

Celebrations will be very short lived, though, as Maryland’s final obstacle to reaching the Final Four comes in the form of reigning national champion and No. 1-seed South Carolina, which has not lost a game in 385 days.

Head coach Dawn Staley’s squad is the odds-on favorite to repeat as champions, but the Terps will try to prevent the Gamecocks from reaching their third straight Final Four.

Game information

Monday, March 27, 2023, 7 p.m. ET, Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, South Carolina


Streaming: Watch ESPN

How did they get here?

No. 2-seed Maryland Terrapins (28-6, 15-3 Big Ten)

The Terps cruised past No. 15-seed Holy Cross in the round of 64 before reaching the Sweet 16 for the third straight season, as they rolled past No. 7-seed Arizona behind a strong second half.

Maryland brought the momentum it built in College Park to Greenville and beat Notre Dame for the second time this season on Saturday, this time by 17 points.

Maryland now finds itself in its 11th Elite Eight in program history (5-5). It last reached a regional final in 2015, taking down Tennessee before falling to eventual national champion UConn in the Final Four.

No. 1-seed South Carolina Gamecocks (35-0, 16-0 SEC)

South Carolina is the best team in the country, and has been for the past two seasons. Riding a 41-game winning streak, the Gamecocks are looking to become the 10th-ever undefeated national champions.

Led by projected first overall WNBA draft pick Aliyah Boston, the Gamecocks were named the No. 1 overall seed and are heavy favorites to repeat as champions.

The SEC champions unsurprisingly cruised to victory in the opening three rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They took down No. 16-seed Norfolk State and No. 8-seed USF by 32 and 31 points, respectively, before downing No. 4-seed UCLA, 59-43 in the Sweet 16.

What happened last time

When these teams last met on Nov. 11, Maryland was a completely different squad. Head coach Brenda Frese didn’t know what she had in her team or a set rotation. Ranked No. 17 at the time, Maryland was also without All-American Diamond Miller, and the Terps fell 81-56 at XFINITY Center.

The Gamecocks are outscoring their opponents by an average of 30 points per game this season, which makes the 25-point loss slightly less glaring.

Maryland actually entered halftime down just six, and was never really out of it until the fourth quarter, courtesy of a 21-point outing from senior guard Abby Meyers. But, the Gamecocks’ size and strength was just too much.

Boston finished with a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double as South Carolina doubled up Maryland in paint scoring and had 55 rebounds to the Terps’ 32.

Three things to watch

1. Arizona was big. Notre Dame was bigger. South Carolina is biggest. South Carolina is the tallest team in the nation, ranking first in both rebounding margin and blocks per game. An undersized Maryland team was able to use impressive transition play against Arizona and Notre Dame to minimize the impact of the size difference, but South Carolina is a different beast. Boston (6-foot-5) and Kamilla Cardoso (6-foot-7) are two of the most dominant players in the nation. It’s a seemingly improbable task for Maryland to compete with Carolina’s bigs, but the Terps have proven people wrong time and time again this season.

2. It’s essentially a home game for the Gamecocks. Bon Secours Wellness Arena, the site of Monday’s game, is a 90-minute drive from Columbia, South Carolina. It’ll be packed with Gamecock fans. A road-like environment in a huge game will be familiar for the Terps, who had to play the Big Ten Tournament semifinal against Iowa in front of 12,000 fans — almost all of which were rooting for the Hawkeyes.

3. Can the Terps pull off the upset? The odds are against Maryland, but it’s March, and this year’s tournament has been filled with upsets. For the first time since 2009, the Sweet 16 didn’t include every No. 1 seed. Maryland is 9-4 against ranked teams this season, with five wins against top-10 teams. The last time Maryland had five top-10 wins in a season was in 2005-06, when it won the national championship. Frese is looking to take Maryland to its seventh Final Four in program history.

The road ahead

South Carolina is looking to punch its ticket to Dallas and reach the Final Four for the third straight season. On the other hand, Maryland is seeking to play in the national semifinals for the first time since 2015. The winner of Monday’s game will take on the winner of No. 2-seed Iowa and No. 5-seed Louisville.