South Carolina women’s basketball vs UNC prediction: Who has edge in NCAA Tournament second round?

COLUMBIA — For the second straight round in March Madness, South Carolina women’s basketball is getting a rematch from the regular season.

The No. 1 Gamecocks (33-0) will take on No. 8 seed North Carolina (20-12) in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday at Colonial Life Arena.

South Carolina vs UNC prediction, pick for March Madness second round

This will be the third time since 2014 that South Carolina and North Carolina have met in the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels claimed a victory in the Sweet 16 in 2014, while the Gamecocks earned their revenge in the same round one year later.

North Carolina took down No. 9 Michigan State 59-56 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, fending off the Spartans’ late comeback attempt.

Here’s what you need to know about the matchup.

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Can Deja Kelly and Alyssa Ustby lift UNC to next level?

Senior guard Deja Kelly and Alyssa Ustby were critical in keeping North Carolina close in South Carolina’s 65-58 win on Nov. 30 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, scoring 20 points and 18 points, respectively. The All-ACC selections provided a majority of the scoring in the loss.

Ustby and Kelly performed similarly in UNC’s first round win over Michigan State and were second and third on the team in scoring. Another performance from senior forward Maria Gakdeng like her 17-point day against the Spartans would be crucial to upsetting the Gamecocks.

North Carolina can keep South Carolina off the boards

The Tar Heels kept the previous matchup close because of their ability to keep the Gamecocks off the glass. UNC outrebounded South Carolina 45-39 and tallied 15 offensive rebounds.

North Carolina used a 45-27 rebounding advantage to fend off Michigan State, including 17 second chance points on 18 offensive boards.

Kamilla Cardoso, Bree Hall will return to boost South Carolina

Senior center Kamilla Cardoso and junior guard Bree Hall both missed South Carolina’s win over Presbyterian in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Cardoso served a one-game suspension for her role in a fight against LSU, while Hall was held out for precautionary reasons, the school said.

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Hall was the leading scorer against the Tar Heels in November with 15 points. Cardoso struggled offensively, scoring just six points, but grabbed 16 rebounds in the win. Both players are expected to return Sunday and will boost an offensive that scored 91 points in the first round victory.

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South Carolina prediction vs UNC: March Madness second round

South Carolina 85, North Carolina 69: Since meeting in November, these two teams have headed in opposite directions. UNC, ranked No. 24 at the time, went 11-7 in conference play and dropped three of its last four games, including its ACC Tournament opener. South Carolina has cruised to a 33-0 record and will have the home crowd behind it for the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Evan Gerike covers South Carolina women’s basketball for the Greenville News. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanGerike.

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