Kamilla Cardoso’s first career 3-pointer was a big one.

The South Carolina Gamecocks center found herself with the ball down 73-71 in the waning seconds of their Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals game Saturday against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in Greenville, South Carolina. Her debut trey landed, giving the Gamecocks the win and preserving their undefeated season for at least one more night.

“I knew with the players we had on the floor, pretty much the only person who was going to be open was Kamilla,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “So I jMarch’s eyes will be on Caitlin Clark while undefeated Gamecocks remain favorite for revenge
It is Caitlin Clark’s world — and South Carolina’s tournament to lose.

The top-ranked Gamecocks (32-0), the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, are the heavy favorites to complete the sport’s first undefeated season in seven years and claim their second national championship in three years.



But the spotlight of perhaps the most-anticipated postseason in the history of the women’s game remains fixed on the Iowa superstar who has elevated the sport and inspired a generation, who makes logo shots look like layups, who treats no-look passes like no big deal, who is the most celebrated player college basketball has seen in years.

In last year’s unforgettable run to Iowa’s first Final Four in 30 years, Clark set the NCAA Tournament scoring record and led her school to its first-ever national championship game appearance — attracting a record 9.9 million viewers in the title game loss to LSU — following an epic 41-point performance in an upset of undefeated South Carolina.

Caitlin Clark dribbles up court as Laeticia Amihere #15 of the South Carolina Gamecocks defends during the semifinals of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four at American Airlines Center on March 31, 2023 in Dallas, Texas.




Caitlin Clark dribbles up court as Laeticia Amihere #15 of the South Carolina Gamecocks defends during the semifinals of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four at American Airlines Center on March 31, 2023 in Dallas,

This year, Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks could get their chance at redemption against Iowa (29-4) — also, a No. 1 seed — in the Final Four in Cleveland, a potential matchup that would pit the highest-scoring team in the nation against South Carolina’s top-ranked defense.

It is easy to envision South Carolina cutting the final net.


It would leave millions unfulfilled if Clark’s record-setting season — in which she surpassed Pete Maravich to become the all-time leading scorer in Division I history and broke Steph Curry’s single-season mark for 3-pointers — doesn’t end with the senior guard bringing a national championship back to her home state.

Caitlin Clark smiles as confetti falls after Iowa wins the Big Ten Tournament championship game at the Target Center on Sunday, March 10, 2024.


Caitlin Clark smiles as confetti falls after Iowa wins the Big Ten Tournament championship game at the Target Center on Sunday, March 10, 2024.

“To me, this isn’t a farewell tour,” Clark said after leading Iowa to its third straight Big Ten Tournament title. “I don’t want it to be all about me. I just want it to be us.

Yeah, I know in the back of my mind this could be my last game every single time I step on the court from here on out, but if I think like that, I’m not going to play my best basketball. I’m thinking we’ve got another game after this. We’ve got to win. We’ve got to move on. And just focus one day at a time and enjoy every single second.

“My career has gone so fast, and I don’t want to miss any opportunities. I think there’s a lot of season left if we want to reach our goal. So just enjoying that and believing in that.”

The final dance for the Pac-12 features a pair of contenders from the dying conference.

No. 2 seed Stanford (28-5) won the 2021 national championship.

Sania Feagin (20) smiles as the seconds tick away against the LSU Lady Tigers during the second half at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

No. 1 seed USC (26-5), which hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game in 18 years, has lost one game since January, led by freshman Juju Watkins, the second-leading scorer in the nation and expected heir to Clark’s spot atop the sport.

The past five tournaments have produced five different champions.

Defending national champ three-seeded LSU (28-5), featuring Angel Reese, will attempt to become the first repeat champion in seven years (UConn) after becoming the first team in a dozen years to win the title without being a No. 1 seed.

Third-seeded UConn (29-5), which saw its 14-year Final Four streak snapped last year without Paige Bueckers, brings back the former Naismith Award winner to this year’s field, but Geno Auriemma’s shorthanded squad faces a difficult road to return to the final weekend of the season.

In a field of 68, one team stands above all others.

One player, too.

ust told Raven [Johnson] to get the ball to Kamilla. And I told Kamilla, ‘Hey, pass it to [Te-Hina] Paopao,’ and then at the last second I was like, ‘Kamilla, shoot it.'”

Cardoso’s shot garnered praise from some big names on social media.

@Candace_Parker called me thinking it was overrrrrr 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/UwBuhMJwQx

Cardoso’s shot garnered praise from some big names on social media.