“Sister, I see you.” ----------- THE NIXONS
SEATTLE – After a brief sojourn for family matters
South Carolina practiced today for its impending matchup with Oregon State (stop giggling!) and I was over there to talk to the Gamecocks. Dawn Staley had a funny, answering a question about if she talked to her players about last year’s second-round exit with a “you guys keep bringing it up,” but jokes aside, she seemed calm.
She’s been here before, several times. A few of her players have been here before. As much as it might be yawned over by the fan base, it should be noted that Staley has only advanced to one Sweet 16 in her coaching career – with Temple, it was a case of talent; with USC, she’s only had two previous chances and got one of them.
This team wants this. This team surprised even Staley by how good it was, and even if the Sweet 16 is taken by a given by a lot of folks, she knows how hard it will be.
Yet there’s still some uneasiness. The Gamecocks have played well but not their best ever since they returned from that masterful two-game stretch at LSU and Kentucky. They were good against Cal State Northridge but displayed that nagging weakness that teams with a good point guard – like Oregon Stae’s Sydney Wiese – will surely scout.
Frankly, the NCAA tournament is never a disappointment. Even with a No. 1 seed, it’s not a disappointment with an early exit if looking at the previous season.
But Staley knows that the last game is how a team is remembered. Her Gamecocks could be undefeated right now and if they lost tonight, it would be viewed as a failure.
That kind of thought only drives her and USC. She knows that to get anything less than a Sweet 16 berth would be looked at as falling short. It’s a lot of pressure, but they’ve dealt with that all season.
Last year, Kansas got 27 points from a player averaging nine. This year, USC is facing a team that like the Gamecocks, has recently come in from the cold to experience success.
Now it’s time to live up to expectations. It’s not always easy to do.
Stanford 63, Florida State 44
Kentucky 64, Syracuse 59
Tennessee 67, St. John’s 51
Florida at Penn State, 7 p.m.
Michigan State at North Carolina, 7 p.m.
Oregon State vs. South Carolina, 9:30 p.m.
West Virginia at LSU, 9:30 p.m.
James Madison at Texas A&M, 9:30 p.m.
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