South Carolina basketball is off to the best start of any team in the country. Dawn Staley’s team is the only one in the country with two top-15 wins to start the season, and they’ve won those two games by lopsided scores (100-71 over Notre Dame and 114-76 over Maryland).
The Gamecocks have returned to their spot at the top of the AP Poll rankings, and the low-level expectations that many teams had for the program have been thrown out of the window.
In recent days, ESPN released their list of the top-25 players in the country. No freshmen were considered for the list, but even without MiLaysia Fulwiely, South Carolina basketball put two players on the list.
Center Kamilla Cardoso (a preseason Wade Trophy watch list nominee and Lisa Leslie Award watch list nominee) comes in ranked as the 12th-best returner in college basketball according to ESPN, and guard Te-Hina Paopao (a Nancy Lieberman Award preseason watch list nominee) finished off the list at #25.
Cardoso has never been a starter at the college level (though she was the SEC’s Sixth Woman of the Year last season), and she still was considered one of the most physically dominant players in the country. She had a great showing in the opener against Notre Dame, scoring 20 points, securing 15 rebounds, and blocking 4 shots. In fewer minutes against Maryland, she still scored in double-figures.
Paopao is part of Coach Staley’s two point guard system (next to Raven Johnson) and is one of the top 3-point shooters in the country. She has scored 14 points in both games this year and has made 6 of her 12 outside shots. She’s also added 14 assists and 4 steals. She is shooting exactly 50% from the field and from outside.
Only UConn (Paige Bueckers, Aaliyah Edwards, and Azzy Fudd) and LSU (Angel Reese, Aneesah Morrow, and Hailey Van Lith) have more than two players on ESPN’s top-25 list.
Cardoso, Paopao, and the Gamecocks will play again on Thursday when they take on the Clemson Tigers at Colonial Life Arena. The game will tip at 7:00 and will be broadcast on the SECNetwork and the ESPN app.