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Sweet 16 Preview: Albany Regional

UConn and South Carolina seemed destined to meet in the Elite Eight. Can Duke or Buffalo stop them?

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Quinnipiac at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Albany Regional kicks off on Saturday with three of the four top seeds remaining along with 11-seed Buffalo. Much of the attention is focused on defending national champion South Carolina and No. 1 overall seed UConn, but both Duke and Buffalo have earned their way to Albany. Let’s take a look at how they match up together.

No. 1 UConn Huskies (34-0) vs. No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (24-8)

Via HerHoopsStats UConn Duke
Via HerHoopsStats UConn Duke
Statistic Rank Rank
Overall Team Rating 1st 14th
HHS Offensive Rating 1st 15th
HHS Defensive Rating 1st 15th
Margin Per Game 1st (+38.1) 26th (+13.3)
Total Rebound Rate 4th 50th
Turnovers Per Game 26th 154th
Assisted Shot Ratio 16th (65.7%) 128th (58.0%)

UConn advanced to its 25-straight Sweet Sixteen after dispatching in-state foe Quinnipiac in the first round while Duke is in its 17th overall and first since 2015. Before the two-year drought, the Blue Devils reached the round in 16 of the previous 18 years.

Duke had a pair of tough match-ups in their first two games, facing 12-seed Belmont and 4-seed Georgia but disposed of both rather easily, winning by 14 and 26 points, respectively. UConn, meanwhile, blew Saint Francis out of the water with a record-setting 140-52 victory in the first round before handling a tough aforementioned Bobcats squad the next game.

The two teams have met 14 times with the Huskies holding the 11-3 edge. However, in two NCAA Tournament meetings, each team has claimed a victory with both battles coming in the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils defeated UConn 63-61 in overtime of the 2006 tournament while the Huskies returned the favor in 2011 with a 75-40 victory.

For UConn’s sixth-player Azura Stevens, it will be her first game against her former squad since she transferred from Duke following the 2015-2016 season.

No. 2 South Carolina (28-6) vs. No. 11 Buffalo (29-5)

Via HerHoopsStats South Carolina Buffalo
Via HerHoopsStats South Carolina Buffalo
Statistic Rank Rank
Overall Team Rating 11th 34th
HHS Offensive Rating 9th 31st
HHS Defensive Rating 14th 37th
Margin Per Game 18th (+15.2) 24th (+13.8)
Total Rebound Rate 32nd 165th
Turnovers Per Game 66th 199th
Assisted Shot Ratio 236th (53.4%) 46th (62.6%)

The Gamecocks look to defend their title but will have a difficult road to the Final Four, potentially playing two quasi-road games with Buffalo just four and a half hours away and UConn only two hours down the road.

Through two games, South Carolina has not been thrilled with their play so far in the tournament. First, they snuck past North Carolina A&T with a too-close-for-comfort 11-point victory in which they turned the ball over 19 times. In the second round against Virginia, the Gamecocks reduced the turnovers to 10 and came away with a 10-point victory.

Their opponents are in opposite position. Buffalo is playing their best basketball of the year, blasting 6-seed USF 102-79 followed up by a comfortable 21-point victory over 3-seed Florida State. The Bulls are the hottest team in the tournament and they have South Carolina’s full attention despite the low seed.

“Around this time of year, anything can happen,” Gamecocks senior A’ja Wilson told The State. “It could be a 2 seed, it could be an 11 seed, it really doesn’t matter.”

South Carolina should have a height advantage, with four players over 6-foot-1 including the 6-foot-5 Wilson. Buffalo’s tallest player is just 6-foot-3 with just three over players over the 6-foot mark. The Gamecocks also rank 32nd in rebound rate while the Bulls sit at 165th. Controlling the board will be a major key for both teams.

South Carolina is the favorite, having a 75 percent chance to win according to FiveThirtyEight. But Buffalo is hot right now while the Gamecocks are far from it. The defending champs need to snap out of their funk quickly to avoid being the Bulls’ latest upset victim.