South Carolina women's basketball vs Iowa, Caitlin Clark: Final Four scouting report, prediction

DALLAS — South Carolina women’s basketball is one win away from returning to the NCAA Tournament championship game for the second consecutive season.

Before they can defend their 2022 title, the No. 1 Gamecocks (36-0) have to get through a Final Four matchup with 2-seed Iowa (30-6) at American Airlines Center on Friday (9:30 p.m., ESPN). It is the second-ever meeting between the two teams.

The last time South Carolina played in Dallas was during the 2017 Final Four when it won the first NCAA championship in program history. The Gamecocks are in the midst of a historic season, and two more wins in 2023 would make them the fourth program to win consecutive national titles and fifth to finish with an undefeated record. Iowa has not been to a Final Four since 1993.

Here’s everything you need to know about the matchup and a prediction:

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Can Caitlin Clark be contained?

Iowa star Caitlin Clark, who won Naismith Player of the Year on Wednesday, is having one of the most impressive offensive seasons in the history of women’s college basketball. The junior guard averages 27.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game. She has logged five triple-doubles this year, including the first-ever 40-point triple double during the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight against Louisville.

Arguably Clark’s greatest weapon is her incredible range on 3-pointers, and she hits 39% from beyond the arc. However, South Carolina has been effective at limiting sharpshooters this season, holding opponents to an average of 36% on 3-pointers.

Gamecocks are major defensive mismatch for Iowa

South Carolina’s defense is peaking at the perfect time: The Gamecocks became just the seventh team in history to hold each of their first three NCAA Tournament opponents under 50 points, and has not given up more than 75 points in a game since allowing 77 to UConn on Feb. 5. Iowa, the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, wins almost exclusively by outscoring opponents, which could be nearly impossible.

The Gamecocks also have a top-10 scoring offense averaging 80.5 points per game, while the Hawkeyes’ defense is among the worst in the country. They rank No. 306 out of 350 Division I program in scoring defense and No. 187 in turnover margin.

How Hawkeyes fared against common opponents

During the regular season, Iowa and South Carolina both faced Maryland and UConn, and the Gamecocks saw Maryland again in the Elite Eight, while the Hawkeyes ran into Georgia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Iowa went 2-1 in three meetings with Maryland, lost to UConn and had their closest game of the tournament against the Bulldogs.

South Carolina swept its matchups with Maryland, winning both by double digits, and star player Aliyah Boston posted a double-double in both. The Terps were one of just three teams to hold Clark under 20 points in a game this season. UConn beat Iowa by seven and lost to South Carolina by four. Georgia's junk defense gave South Carolina a scare in their first meeting, but the Gamecocks won by 10 in the rematch. The Bulldogs came within two points of the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter of their tournament matchup, but Iowa ultimately pulled out an eight-point win.


South Carolina 92, Iowa 78: Clark will have her usual high-scoring performance, but her rebounding and passing suffer against South Carolina’s size and stifling defensive system. The Gamecocks force turnovers left and right, and once the scorers get going, they never look back.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: South Carolina women's basketball vs Iowa: Final Four score prediction