David Cloninger

All things Gamecocks, especially basketball and football

Seattle, Day 6

03/26/2014 2:41 AM

03/26/2014 2:42 AM

“Do you know the way to San Jose?”
-------------------------- DIONNE WARWICK

SEATTLE -- Although maybe that should be, “If you’re going to San Francisco ”

South Carolina is headed back to the Sweet 16, about to play the next round in Stanford, Calif. I believe it’s been officially renamed “Stanford” instead of Palo Alto, but you get the idea – the spot halfway between San Francisco and San Jose, where there’s a bunch of smart students, a really good ground-and-pound football team and this weekend, four of the nation’s best basketball teams.

I thought the Gamecocks were a much better matchup for Oregon State than they were for Cal State Northridge, because USC could neutralize what the Beavers were good at. They had more athletic height and matched OSU with big 3-pointers, and the defense that USC played on Sydney Wiese was marvelous. She never seemed that flustered, but there were a few times when she got the shots off and she just stood there and stared when they didn’t fall. Again, the Gamecocks owned the glass and again, the Gamecocks didn’t shoot themselves out from the free-throw line.

So now it’s on to the next round. USC was expected to get here and now that it’s here, it wants to get a little further. Honestly, I’m surprised this team is at this point because I didn’t think it would be this good right away.

But we’ll find out just how good it is in the next one or two games.

The Gamecocks are matched with North Carolina, a very athletic team with one of the country’s most exciting players in Diamond DeShields. She lixivated USC in the matchup earlier this year, driving the lane, hovering in midair, then stepping back out to shoot the 3. As Khadijah Sessions said, “She just got on my nerves.” The Gamecocks couldn’t do anything with her.

There’s also Xylina McDaniel, who has become so much better since coming to college. At Spring Valley High, she was always very good but wasn’t terrific at finishing at the rim. She’s added a lot more muscle and is a load on the block.

Many folks are already looking at this and saying, “Boy, the Tar Heels are awfully good ” and they’re right. But USC is awfully good, too. The Gamecocks got past a rough first game with a great second game, and from the way USC attacked Oregon State, I have a feeling they would have still won even if their defense hadn’t been so airtight. They wanted that one.

USC shouldn’t have the travel-bug to fight this time, since it’s only a two-hour flight and they’ll have the rest of Wednesday, then Thursday, Friday and Saturday to get used to the arena. By contrast, Stanford is coming back home from Iowa, Penn State is flying cross-country from Happy Valley and UNC is making the journey from Chapel Hill.

Should be a fun time. And after taking in Seattle’s sights, I can’t wait to get to San Jose. For one thing, I can stop by and pay homage at the 49ers’ new home, and maybe sit down for a side of raw beef with Jim Harbaugh and tell him how to make his quarterback a winner.

For another, and most importantly – I’ve been around this team all season, and for the past five seasons. It’s been terrific to watch them grow and succeed, just getting better and better. Thanks to my superiors at The State for financing this one.

Hope it’s not my last stop.

TUESDAY’S GAMES
Stanford bracket
Penn State 83, Florida 61
North Carolina 62, Michigan State 53
South Carolina 78, Oregon State 69

SEC
LSU 76, West Virginia 67
Texas A&M 85, James Madison 69

SATURDAY’S GAMES
Lincoln Regional
UConn vs. BYU
Texas A&M vs. DePaul
South Bend Regional
Oklahoma State at Notre Dame
Kentucky vs. Baylor

SUNDAY’S GAMES
Stanford Regional
South Carolina vs. North Carolina
Penn State at Stanford
Louisville Regional
Tennessee vs. Maryland
LSU at Louisville

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