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NCAA Tournament Preview: South Carolina vs. Baylor

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Well, this won’t be easy.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 South Carolina (23-9) vs. No. 1 Baylor (33-1)

Start time: 2 p.m.

Location: Greensboro, N.C.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 107.5 FM The Game

Live stream: watchespn.com

How they got here

The fourth-seeded Gamecocks survived another tough NCAA Tournament matchup against fifth-seeded Florida State, outlasting the Seminoles 72-64. Mikiah Herbet Harrigan, playing a full game after being suspended for a half against Belmont, led South Carolina with 20 points. Three other Gamecocks finished in double figures: Alexis Jennings (16), Te’a Cooper (13), and Tyasha Harris (11), who turned in some late-game heroics with a three-point play.

The top-seeded and top-ranked Bears are marching through the tournament with ease thus far, most recently dispatching eighth-seeded California 102-63 and annihilating 16-seed Abilene Christian 95-38. As its lofty ranking would imply, Baylor has lost just one game this season, a close 68-63 result to then-No. 11 Stanford.

What to watch for

So the Bears are, uh, pretty good! They’re in the mix to make their first Final Four since winning it all in 2012, and are a favorite to capture the national title as well. Baylor is first nationally in multiple statistical categories: defensive rebounds per game (33), rebound margin (+17.7), field goal percentage defense (.313), blocked shots per game (7.2), and assists per game (22.8). The Bears are also fourth in field goal percentage (.501). Bigs Kalani Brown and and Lauren Cox power the Baylor attack, with Brown putting up 15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, while Cox adds 12.6 points, eight rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game.

Series history

Despite both programs making frequent NCAA Tournament appearances, they’ve only met once previously and in the regular season, which was earlier this year. The Bears took away a commanding 94-69 victory in Columbia, where Brown led all scorers with 22 points.

Bracket at a glance

N.C. State and Iowa will square off today in Greensboro as well, and should they advance, the Gamecocks would face the winner of that matchup. On the same side of the bracket in Portland, fellow SEC heavyweight Mississippi State already punched its ticket to the Elite 8 by topping South Dakota State, and Oregon reached the next round as well by handling Indiana.