Who should South Carolina basketball fans hope wins, Caitlin Clark or Angel Reese?

South Carolina basketball fans have no love lost for Iowa or LSU. Who should Gamecocks root for to make the Final Four.
South Carolina basketball has already punched its ticket to the Final Four. Who should Gamecock fans root for between LSU and Iowa?
South Carolina basketball has already punched its ticket to the Final Four. Who should Gamecock fans root for between LSU and Iowa? / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina basketball fans are faced with an interesting dilemma.

The Gamecocks have already punched their ticket to the Final Four, and they know who they will be playing (NC State), but two teams disliked strongly by the fanbase are battling in the Elite Eight for the opportunity to play in the Final Four on the other side of the bracket.

Southern Cal and UConn will be playing for one Final Four spot, but the rival LSU Tigers and the Iowa Hawkeyes are playing for the other.

The Gamecock FAMs have no love lost for either LSU or Iowa. Iowa beat Carolina in last year's Final Four in a game that USC never should have lost, and LSU won a national title that most garnet and black-clad fans feel is somewhat fraudulent because LSU (who hasn't beaten South Carolina in 16 tries) avoided the Gamecocks.

As evidenced by the SEC Tournament Championship Game scuffle, Dawn Staley's team doesn't enjoy LSU, either, and star player Angel Reese is a polarizing figure in the sport. Speaking of polarizing, Iowa's Caitlin Clark is another immensely talented player who has earned a lot of love and a lot of hate for her play and her antics on the floor, much like Reese.

So, who should South Carolina basketball fans hope to meet in a hypothetical National Championship game?

First, it is important to mention that the Gamecocks still have a tough game with the NC State Wolfpack ahead, and the LSU-Iowa winner will have to play against the UConn-Southern Cal winner, so a matchup between the Gamecocks and the Tigers or Hawkeyes might never happen.

However, if it does, the team USC fans should hope to find in the title game is LSU. Aside from the fact that no one wants to be a fan of the opposing team while watching Caitlin Clark scream at officials, the fans, and her teammates for two hours, LSU is still the team South Carolina basketball fans should hope to play if there is going to be a meeting in the national title game.

The Bayou Bengals are the choice for several reasons, but it starts with last season. Yes, getting "revenge" on Iowa would be great, but LSU won the title after the 2022-2023 season, not Iowa. Taking the trophy back from the Tigers and extending a dominant win streak to 17 games would solidify the Gamecocks' spot as a team that is still a tier above LSU.

Kim Mulkey is building a program in Baton Rogue that has sustainability. The Tigers will be in contention for several years beyond this one. Iowa will lose its place among the great teams in college basketball when Clark is gone. Beating LSU will have more of a long-term impact than beating an Iowa team that likely won't compete for Big 10 titles after Clark is in the WNBA.

Plus, Mulkey's post-game press conference from after the SEC Tournament Championship Game was less than kind toward Kamilla Cardoso, and Mulkey only stoked the fires of criticism toward the women's game with her comments. Having Dawn Staley tie Mulkey's three National Championship rings (at a much younger age, by the way) by beating her would be sweet for Gamecock fans.

On the court, South Carolina basketball matches up with LSU better, as well. Iowa shoots 3-pointers at a high clip (it isn't just Clark), and the NCAA Tournament has shown that the recipe for making the Carolina defense uncomfortable is shooting a lot of perimeter jump shots. LSU is a really good team, but their style of play is a friendlier matchup for the Gamecocks.

A matchup against LSU also could be more fun.

The low-post contests between Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso have become a fun rivalry for women's college basketball (whenever Reese isn't pulling Cardoso's hair, anyway). Reese won the SEC Player of the Year on the back of her stats, while Cardoso has sacrificed some personal numbers for the betterment of the team, a move that has paid off with an undefeated record so far.

Flau'jae Johnson and Raven Johnson are a great perimeter matchup when the two get locked into one-on-ones. The Ashlyn Watkins/Chloe Kitts combo and Aneesah Morrow have had some really fun back-and-forths in the two meetings this year, especially in the 1st half of the January contest. Bree Hall has had some of the biggest moments of her season against LSU, as well.

Another SEC award that many thought should have belonged to a Gamecock went the way of LSU.

Mikaylah Williams had a nice freshman season and was awarded the SEC's Freshman of the Year. However, MiLaysia Fulwiley is the best freshman in the conference, and she has proved it in the two head-to-head meetings this year. In the two previous USC-LSU contests, Williams has shot 6-23 from the field and scored only 14 points in 61 minutes. Fulwiley, on the other hand, is 11-18 for 32 points in just 27 minutes. The Gamecocks have attacked Williams and fellow backcourt mate Hailey Van Lith on defense, while Fulwiley's defense has been extremely disruptive to the Tiger offense.

Frankly, beating LSU again this year, especially with the National Championship on the line, would put to bed many narratives that are forming across college basketball. The world would be reminded that Dawn Staley and her players are still the queens of the sport, and the dynasty would keep on rolling for the Gamecocks.

The Tigers and Hawkeyes will tip off at 7:15 PM EST on ESPN on Monday night. South Carolina basketball will be off until Friday when they play in their fourth Final Four in a row against the NC State Wolfpack.

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