SLAM’s 2022 WBB March Madness Preview: South Carolina, Stanford, NC State and Louisville

This section is featured in SLAM’s 2022 WBB NCAA March Madness Preview. Here, we take a look at some exciting and dominant teams that will look to make a run in the tournament.

The Mountain Top – No. 1 Seed South Carolina

Despite losing the SEC Championship game to Kentucky last weekend, the Gamecocks remain atop the AP Top 25. They’ve asserted their dominance all season long, consistently holding down the top spot in the AP poll since the preseason, dropping just one loss in conference play to Missouri in late December. Under SEC Coach of the Year, Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks boast a nation-best 11 wins over ranked opponents, culminating in defeating No. 2 Stanford 65-61 at home.

The regular season champs are headlined by SEC Player of the Year and frontrunner for National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston, who’s been damn-near unstoppable this season, breaking Sylvia Fowles’ SEC record with 20 consecutive double doubles. Boston continued her career sweep as SEC Defensive Player of the Year, posting 16.8 points, 12 boards 2.6 blocks and 1.3 steals per game while shooting a commanding 54.4 percent from the field and becoming just the fifth player in school history to record 1,000 career boards.

Establishing an uptempo pressure on the game is key for the Gamecocks, with 5-7 senior Destanni Henderson, aka “Henny” leading the charge with her lighting quick speed, playmaking ability and defensive prowess, dropping 11.3 points, 4.3 dimes (7th in the SEC) and 1.4 steals while shooting a conference fifth-best 40.6 percent from deep.

Top of the Pac – Stanford Cardinal

Undefeated in conference play (28-3, 16-0) the Cardinal cruised through the Pac-12 tournament en route to their second-straight conference championship behind the magnificent play of the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player, Haley Jones. Defeating Oregon State, Colorado and Utah, Stanford extended their win streak, which is the longest active streak in the nation, to 20-straight ahead of the national tournament.

Alongside Jones, sophomore Cameron Brink has continued to expand her game since taking being named to the All-Freshman Team last year. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year led the conference in 2.8 blocks a game while averaging 13.6 points.

Coming off of their first NCAA championship since ‘92, the Cardinal will look to defend their title and repeat as champions in Minneapolis. Utah’s head coach Lynne Roberts mirrored that same sentiment after losing to Stanford, 73-48, in the conference championship.

“I actually think they’re better than they were last year, and last year they won the national championship,” Roberts said after the game. “I do think they’re the best team in the country.”

Pack Life – NC State

After securing the No. 1 seed at the ACC Tournament for the first time in 32 years, the Wolf Pack added to what’s already been a historic season this past weekend, winning the ACC Tournament Championship for the third-straight season in a 60-47 win over the Miami Hurricanes. Elissa Cunane led the way with 20 points and 13 boards in the semis, and 17 points and eight boards in the ‘chip.

The now two-time ACC Tournament MVP cemented her legacy in tournament play, scoring double figures in all 11 of her career ACC Tournament appearances.

Card Nation – Louisville

Led by sophomore All-ACC First Team guard Hailey Van Lith, the No. 1 Louisville Cardinals (25-4) find themselves in their 24th NCAA tournament appearance as a program despite being knocked out of the ACC quarterfinals by the Miami Hurricanes. Finishing second (16-2) in the ACC behind NC State, the Cardinals have notched eight dubs over top 25 opponents in their belt, snagging a quality win over No. 7 UConn 69-64 this season. Van Lith dropped 16 points, four boards and three assists.

Van Lith’s show-stopping dimes, limitless range and command of the offense has been on display since her days at Cashmere High School in Washington, but the basketball world was reminded of them once again in early February when she lit up Clemson for 34 points on 13-16 shooting from the field and a scintillating 6-for-6 from beyond the arc. Holding it down on defense is All-ACC First Team senior, Emily Engstler, who simultaneously earned All-Defensive honors.

Now the tandem and the Cardinals face off against No. 16 Albany in the first round of the Women’s March Madness Tournament.

Photos via Getty Images.