NCAAW: South Carolina, LSU soar as Tennessee struggles in SEC

For our inaugural SEC replace of the 2022-23 season, let’s examine in on the convention’s consensus prime three, and solely nationally-ranked, groups: the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks (3-0), No. 11 Tennessee Girl Vols (1-2) and No. 15 LSU Girl Tigers (4-0).

Regardless of Gamecocks’ depth and dominance, weaknesses price watching emerge

Sure, we should begin with the slam!

Freshman Ashlyn Watkins capped off South Carolina’s 85-31 evisceration of in-state rival Clemson with the primary dunk in program historical past. The winner of the 2022 McDonald’s All-American dunk contest turned a Tiger turnover into an authoritative one-handed flush.

Watkins did greater than dunk, scoring 14 factors in 16 minutes off the bench whereas additionally notching 5 boards, three steals, a pair of blocks and an help. The expertise that oozes out of the Columbia native epitomizes why Daybreak Staley suggested, “I believe this crew could possibly be higher than final yr’s crew.”

Though possessing a extra spectacular accumulation of expertise, it’s price asking if South Carolina is, in truth, a higher, optimally-balanced crew. Sure, after their dominating begin to the season, it appears odd to ask this query.

Nevertheless, the performances nonetheless uncovered some potential factors of concern. Particularly, South Carolina appears to overlook the dynamism of Destanni Henderson. A blur with the ball in her palms, the previous level guard was a one-woman quick break, in a position to generate simple, momentum-swinging buckets in transition. Critically, she additionally was the squad’s greatest 3-point shooter.

Staley has expressed confidence in her level guard pairing of redshirt freshman Raven Johnson and graduate scholar switch Kierra Fletcher, each of whom are getting back from accidents and thus have been restricted within the early going. Though missing Henderson’s pace, each possess good dimension that ought to enable them to see the courtroom higher and, most significantly, get the ball to Aliyah Boston on the block. Nevertheless, neither is a very threatening 3-point shooter.

Whereas South Carolina drained their first 5 3-pointers in opposition to Clemson earlier than ending 7-of-12 from deep, Maryland packed the paint in opposition to South Carolina, prioritizing stopping the Gamecocks from getting the ball to Boston and as an alternative permitting often-reluctant perimeter gamers to take open threes. The Gamecocks made solely eight of their 28 makes an attempt from deep in opposition to the Terrapins.

After all, as they confirmed after a late-third quarter scuffle, South Carolina’s prime gear can render any half-court stagnation irrelevant, because the Gamecocks in the end would cruise to the 81-56 win.

Sunday’s showdown in opposition to the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal will supply an intriguing check case. Will a Stanford crew that possesses far more dimension than Maryland undertake an identical technique, walling off the inside and daring South Carolina to depend on their shaky perimeter shotmaking within the half courtroom? And if that’s the case, do the Gamecocks nonetheless have sufficient defensive oomph and total expertise to beat?

Robust schedule and turnovers bedevil Tennessee

When matched up in opposition to groups from the Massive Ten, Tennessee has not appeared like massive, dangerous Tennessee. As an alternative, the squad projected because the SEC’s second-best crew too-often has appeared out of kinds. In opposition to the now-No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes, the Girl Vols surrendered an astronomical 29 turnovers as they proved unable to navigate full-court strain. Senior Jordan Horston, who is just not a standard main ball-handler, was a frequent wrongdoer, coughing up the ball seven occasions within the 87-75 defeat.

Tennessee considerably elevated its ball safety in its 79-67 loss to the No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers with solely 15 giveaways. Nevertheless, with Horston out of the lineup as a consequence of a decrease leg harm, senior Rickea Jackson was overburdened with additional ball-handling duties, leading to six turnovers.

Compounding the Vols’ struggles within the loss to the Buckeyes was foul hassle for senior heart Tamari Key, limiting her to 13 minutes of motion. Even when on the courtroom, she didn’t have her anticipated impression. In opposition to each Ohio State and Indiana, this system’s all-time chief in blocked pictures didn’t handle a single swat. The 6-foot-6 Key additionally grabbed solely six rebounds throughout the 2 video games.

In brief, the Girl Vols’ senior stars must step up. In any other case, the crew might discover itself once more falling to a Massive Ten crew when it meets the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday morning within the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Reese and Girl Tigers rolling, albeit in opposition to a mushy schedule

In distinction to Tennessee’s powerful slate of opponents, LSU’s early-season schedule has been cake. And the Girl Tigers have been consuming, scoring greater than 100 factors in all 4 contests. Sophomore ahead Angel Reese instantly launched her celebrity upside to of us in Baton Rouge, dropping 31 factors in 23 minutes in LSU’s season-opening 125-50 obliteration of Bellarmine and 29 factors within the Girl Tigers’ most up-to-date 101-47 destruction of Houston Christian. She’s additionally tallied a complete of 59 boards, 10 dimes, 10 steals and eight blocks for the season.

Due to a breezy non-conference schedule, Reese and LSU won’t face a real check till their SEC slate begins. Till then, anticipate her and her squad to proceed to compile some eye-popping numbers.