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Women’s Final Four: NC State-South Carolina Preview, Props & Trends

The 2024 Women’s Final Four begins with No. 3 seed NC State seeking to pull off a major upset against top-seeded and undefeated South Carolina at 7 p.m. ET in Cleveland on Friday night.




TRENDING


The Gamecocks (36-0) are consensus 11.5-point favorites. That includes at ESPNBet and BetMGM, where the double-digit line has led to NC State being backed by 73 percent of the spread-line handle.


The Wolfpack’s +550 moneyline has also been popular, drawing 87 percent of the bets and 57 percent of the money.


However, the action has been noticeably different at BetRivers. The book reported that as of Friday morning, the Gamecocks’ spread line had been backed by 69 percent of the money while their -1115 moneyline had drawn 84 percent of the money.


South Carolina’s spread line has drawn 14.1 percent of all bets on the Women’s Final Four at BetMGM, making it the second most popular player in terms of total tickets.



PROP PICKS



Saniya Rivers Over 11.5 Points (-130 at BetMGM): This has been the most popular prop pick of this matchup at the sportsbook. The Wolfpack’s junior guard is averaging 12.7 points per game this season, but is coming off an 11-point outing in NC State’s upset of top-seeded Texas in which she hit just 5 of 17 shots. However, Rivers does enter Friday night averaging 15 points through the first four games of the tournament.


Over 140.0 Points: The Over has been backed by 77 percent of the total bets and 62 percent of the money wagered at the book. NC State is averaging 77.3 points over its past three games, while South Carolina’s dominating form has seen the Gamecocks average 82 points through four games.



THE NEWS


South Carolina’s record is unblemished, but coach Dawn Staley’s bunch has looked vulnerable in March.


The Gamecocks needed a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Kamilla Cardoso — the first of her career — to beat Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and held off a late run from Indiana, securing for a four-point victory in the Sweet 16 in Albany, N.Y. In the Elite Eight, Oregon State trailed by just two points midway through the third quarter before South Carolina pulled away for a 12-point win.


Much like their 14-loss men’s basketball program crashing the NCAA Tournament Final Four in Phoenix this weekend, NC State (31-6) has been upset-minded all season.


The Wolfpack were picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference preseason poll and weren’t ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll to start the season.


While unranked, the Wolfpack beat then-No. 2 UConn by 11 points on Nov. 12 to get on the national radar. Along the way, Wes Moore’s team beat Colorado, Louisville and Notre Dame. In the Portland 4 Regional, they notched double-digit victories over No. 2 Stanford and No. 1 Texas to advance to their first Final Four since 1998 — just the second in program history and the first under Moore.


“We feel kind of like the party crashers,” Moore said. “I don’t know that we got an invitation to this thing, but we’re here. So it’s exciting.”


South Carolina and NC State both have nine wins this season against AP Top 25 opponents, tied for the most in the nation.


The Gamecocks enter their sixth Final Four under Staley with the nation’s top defense, ranking first in field-goal percentage allowed (32.1) and points allowed per play (0.65). At the center of that defense is Cardoso, a 6-foot-7 WNBA prospect who averages 14.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.


“We need to shoot the ball well,” Moore said. “We need to hit some 3s, loosen that defense up a little and widen the defense out. The better you shoot the 3, the bigger those gaps get in the defense. We need to do that.”


South Carolina’s top concern is stopping Aziaha James, who is averaging 24.2 points per game in the NCAA Tournament and is shooting 57.1 percent from 3-point land to help carry the Wolfpack to this point.


The Gamecocks will also have to contend with a familiar face in Rivers, who was a freshman reserve on South Carolina’s 2022 national championship team before she transferred to NC State. She averages 12.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists this season for the Wolfpack.


“It’s unfortunate that her talents aren’t on display in a Gamecock uniform, but the most important thing, her talents will be on display at a Final Four,” Staley said of Rivers. “I do think her experience with us will help her navigate through that space because she’s the only one on (NC State) that’s played at this level and really understands what it takes to win.”


NC State last met South Carolina in 2021, the season opener for both teams in Raleigh’s Reynolds Coliseum, and the Gamecocks left with a nine-point win.


KEY STAT


For NC State, South Carolina’s depth could be an obstacle.


The Gamecocks have nine players who play at least 15 minutes and score at least six points per game. That number of quality bodies allows the Gamecocks to play aggressively on both ends of the floor.



THEY SAID IT


“It’s kind of hard to apply what happened last season to this team. It’s just a completely different team. I know we all want the same thing,” Gamecocks junior Bree Hall said. “We’re just so focused on us and want to win every game.” –Staley, on not looking back at last year’s loss in the national semifinals.



–Field Level Media

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