COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Enjoy the moment.
USC women's basketball sure is. Carolina's head coach Dawn Staley has guided the program to its fourth Sweet 16 appearance in the past five years. USC made only three such trips there prior to Staley's arrival. Gamecock fans, enjoy this experience because we're witnessing something special in Columbia with this team.
USC breezed past Kansas State and Jacksonville in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at home this weekend. I know everyone's now looking forward to Indianapolis and the Final Four. Too many people overlook the competition awaiting the Gamecocks in the Sioux Falls Regional. Carolina's Sweet 16 opponent in Syracuse is far better than the group it faced a year ago in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, USC thrashed the Orange 97-68. This time around, I expect a far tougher test with a spot in the Elite 8 up for grabs. The Orange lead the nation in turnover margin and turnovers forced. The Gamecocks will need to play sound basketball against Syracuse.
I am not trying to strike fear into Gamecocks nation. In fact, I see no reason why the Gamecocks won't beat Syracuse. Senior guard Tiffany Mitchell's playing some of the best basketball of her career in tournament time. The biggest X-factor of all in my mind would be the play of Alaina Coates. She can take over a game at will. She racked up her 19th career double-double in Sunday night's 73-47 victory over Kansas State.
Coates did so while suffering from a stomach virus, according to reports. She is tough as nails!
Back to my primary concern though as USC prepares to head to Sioux Falls, South Dakota: If Carolina takes down Syracuse in the Sweet 16, either Ohio State or Tennessee awaits them in the next round. Gr anted, USC defeated OSU and Tennessee during the season. I just wonder if familiarity of the opponent is an advantage for Carolina, or the team trying to deny USC its dream of winning it all.
That's my Weekend Weigh In. What's yours?