When South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso and Notre Dame’s Kylee Watson jump center at Halle Georges Carpentier Arena on Monday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. ET (ESPN), it will be a historic moment for women’s college hoops—the first NCAA regular-season game held in Europe.
South Carolina and Notre Dame will play in Paris on Monday, making history as the first NCAA women’s basketball regular-season game in Europe.#NCAAWBB x @GamecockWBB, @ndwbb pic.twitter.com/ufIZuRj4EM— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) November 4, 2023
The game’s location is not just a testament to the sport’s growth, but also should further expand the footprint of women’s college basketball. Yet, the event’s celebratory atmosphere will not dull the quality of competition.
The Gamecocks enter the season ranked No. 6 in the nation, a lofty status that, nevertheless, represents a slight dip in the program’s national standing compared to recent seasons. Head coach Dawn Staley and her relatively-inexperienced-but-again-talented squad are intent upon reminding all that it is unwise to underestimate them. The Fighting Irish are ranked No. 10, with head coach Niele Ivey and her charges ready not only to defend their ACC title but also make more noise at the national level. A win over the Gamecocks certainly would have the eyes of the women’s college hoops world smiling on the Irish, especially if 2023 Second-Team All-American Olivia Miles, whose status for the game remains undetermined due to lingering knee discomfort, does not take the court.
In Notre Dame’s lone preseason game, freshman phenom Hannah Hidalgo showed that the Irish may be just fine without Miles, as she filled the box score with 23 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals as Notre Dame crushed Purdue Northwest last Monday. South Carolina’s highly-touted freshman, MiLaysia Fulwiley, also starred in the Gamecocks’ single preseason match, draining four 3-pointers as she scored 16 points and added six rebounds, five assists and three steals in South Carolina’s convincing victory over Rutgers.
While the potential of new faces excites, expect the outcome of the opener to be determined by each team’s more experienced players. For South Carolina, that’s senior center Kamilla Cardoso, the 2023 SEC Sixth Woman of the Year who assumes a starting and starring role for the Gamecocks. Look for senior point guard Te-Hina Paopao, now wearing garnet and black after transferring from Oregon, to set up the 6-foot-7 Cardoso. The steady trio of junior guard Bree Hall, junior forward Sania Feagin and sophomore guard Raven Johnson also have the potential to step up and make game-shifting plays for the Gamecocks. Two sophomore forwards likewise could impact the action for South Carolina; whereas Ashlyn Watkins offers nearly unmatched athleticism, Chloe Kitts sports a versatile offensive game.
For the Irish, senior big Kylee Watson will be tasked with containing Cardoso, while her fellow senior frontcourt partner Maddy Westbeld will be expected to provide scoring pop. Junior guard Sonia Citron has the ability to change the game with her shooting stroke. If Miles does not play, grad guard Anna DeWolfe, a transfer from Fordham, likely rounds out the Irish’s starting five, providing an experienced ball handler alongside Hidalgo. Off the bench, the 6-foot-5 senior Nat Marshall brings more size to compete with Cardoso and freshman guard Cass Propser offers the kind of athletic, defensive chops required to hang with the Gamecocks.
In short, Parisian fans potentially unfamiliar with American women’s college basketball should leave the arena impressed with the depth of talent and skill displayed by both teams, regardless of whether the Gamecocks or Irish emerge victorious.
No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks (0-0) vs. No. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0)
When: Monday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: Halle Georges Carpentier Arena in Paris, France
How to watch: ESPN
Key to the matchup: South Carolina’s athleticism. In recent seasons, South Carolina has run opponents off the floor, despite spotty shooting from the perimeter and behind the arc, because of superior athleticism. This year should be no different, as Dawn Staley’s roster is flush with high-level athletes who can overwhelm opponents lacking the necessary size and strength. It’s that signature SEC speed! While Notre Dame is far from under-athletic, can they compete with South Carolina, especially in the paint? If the Gamecocks own the glass on both ends—resulting in defensive rebounds turning into fastbreak points and offensive rebounds becoming second-chance points—the Irish might struggle to keep up.