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Gamecock women open NCAA Tournament play against Howard

March Madness officially begins.

Syndication: The Tennessean Mark Zaleski/ For The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

The No. 1-seeded South Carolina Gamecock women open NCAA Tournament play today at 2 p.m., welcoming the Howard Bison to Colonial Life Arena as March Madness takes hold and the Gamecocks set their sights on avenging last season’s defeat in the Final Four.

With the women’s tournament newly expanded this year, the 16-seed Bison earned this date with South Carolina by prevailing in a closely fought, 55-51 contest over Incarnate Word in the First Four. Howard (21-9), the reigning MEAC champion, grabbed its first NCAA Tournament victory with the win. The Bison and Gamecocks have never met on the court.

South Carolina’s Greensboro, N.C., region also features the likes of 2-seed Iowa, which boasts all-everything standout Caitlin Clark, who is considered Aliyah Boston’s primary competition for national player of the year honors. There’s also No. 5 North Carolina and No. 4 Arizona, which is coming off a national championship game appearance in 2021. Perhaps even more intriguingly, No. 1 overall seed Stanford — the reigning champion and the team that eliminated South Carolina last season — awaits on the other side of the bracket.

As is typical for the women’s tournament, the Gamecocks will play their first- and second-round games in Columbia, at which point the action will move to Greensboro, N.C., until the Final Four held in Minneapolis.