June 30, 2024 

Elevance Health Women’s Fort Myers Tip-Off to feature reigning champion South Carolina Gamecocks

The Tip-Off will feature big NCAA names like the South Carolina Gamecocks and Iowa State Cyclones and provide some early tests.

The third annual Elevance Health Women’s Fort Myers Tip-Off will be held from Nov. 28-30 at Suncoast Credit Union Arena on Florida Southwestern State College’s campus. The reigning national champions, South Carolina Gamecocks, will headline the tournament.

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Tournament teams are split into two divisions—the Island Division and the Shell Division—each with its own unique format. Each team in the Island Division will play two games against pre-determined opponents while the Shell Division will be played as a tournament bracket. The Island Division consists of South Carolina, Iowa State, Purdue and Middle Tennessee. Virginia Tech, Michigan, Davidson and Belmont make up the Shell Division.

Opening night of the Women’s Fort Myers Tip-Off will feature a matchup between Iowa State and South Carolina, two projected top-10 teams. South Carolina will look to defend their national championship this season after losing the NCAA championship’s Most Outstanding Player, Kamilla Cardoso, to the WNBA. Junior, Ashlyn Watkins, looks to secure her role in the starting line up with her increase from 4.9 points per game to 9.2, in addition to 7.4 rebounds per game during her sophomore season. South Carolina also welcomes in three top 30 recruits, including top-five overall prospect Joyce Edwards. Iowa State is led by rising sophomore Audi Crooks. The former top 60 recruit became an instant star for the Cyclones, averaging 19.2 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game during her freshman season. Last season, Iowa State fell to Stanford in the NCAA tournament’s round of 32. There has been one previous matchup between the two teams; South Carolina defeated Iowa State 83-65 on Dec. 6, 2020.

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The full tournament schedule is as follows:

Island Division:

Nov. 28: South Carolina vs. Iowa State

Purdue vs. Middle Tennessee State

Nov. 30: Middle Tennessee State vs. Iowa State

South Carolina vs. Purdue

Shell Division:

Nov. 29: Michigan vs. Belmont

Virginia Tech vs. Davidson

Nov. 30: Third-Place Game

Championship Game

Purdue looks to rebound from suffering its first losing season in the last three seasons. The Boilermakers made it to the Great 8 of the WNIT last season before losing 67-59 to Vermont. Purdue will face off against a familiar face of Middle Tennessee State, Emily Monson. During her freshman year, Monson scored 12 points and had nine rebounds and eight assists in 20 games. Middle Tennessee State finished with a 30-5 record last season and went undefeated in conference play. The 11th-seeded Blue Raiders defeated sixth-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the round of 64 in the 2024 NCAA tournament but fell to LSU in the tournament’s round of 32. Middle Tennessee State will look to fill the role of graduate Savannah Wheeler, their assist and scoring leader in the 2023-24 season.

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In 2023-24, Michigan finished with a 20-14 record and secured a bid to the NCAA tournament before ultimately losing to Kansas in the first round. The Wolverines lost leading scorer, Laila Phelia, to Texas in the transfer portal although will look to rebuild with two top 20 recruits in Syla Swords and Olivia Olson. Last season, Belmont had a strong season going 26-9 and playing in the WBIT before losing to Penn State in the second round. Tessa Miller, the Bruins leading scorer, moved on to Clemson in the transfer portal. This move left the Bruins to turn to rising sophomore, Jailyn Banks, who was second in points per game.

Virginia Tech will look to build on last year’s success with former Marquette head coach, Megan Duffy, after head coach Kenny Brooks left for Kentucky and took star point guard Georgia Amoore with him. The Hokies also lost 3-time ACC player of the year center Elizabeth Kitley to the WNBA. Davidson had a tough break last year when they were forced to cancel their season due to devastating injuries on March 1. The Wildcats started strong at 12-1 but only had seven players in uniform throughout the season. Davidson will look to have the same start as last season and continue to receive votes in the AP poll. Virginia Tech and Davidson have previously played each other on Nov. 9, 2021, with Virginia Tech coming out with the 76-57 victory.

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Written by Alyssa Meda