The Daily Gamecock

Gamecocks not satisfied, searching for more success in Tampa


All season long, South Carolina believed it was talented enough to make the Final Four. As it turns out, the Gamecocks are.

Time and time again this year, the Gamecocks have proven themselves one of the nation’s top teams, and this past weekend’s victories over fourth-seeded North Carolina and second-seeded Florida State only strengthened that notion.

But South Carolina’s dominance and talent will be tested more than ever before when it plays in the Final Four for the first time ever in program history on Sunday. Head coach Dawn Staley’s team is still the new kid on the block, in a sense.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Notre Dame, South Carolina’s next opponent. The Fighting Irish’s victory over Baylor in the Elite Eight on Sunday granted Notre Dame its fifth Final Four appearance in as many years, and Notre Dame has appeared in four national championship games in the 21st Century, winning one title. 

The other side of the bracket is likely to feature Connecticut, the sport’s most successful program in history, and either Tennessee or Maryland, both traditional powers that have won championships in the past. 

Still, none of that has an impact on South Carolina’s goal of winning a national championship, despite its inexperience this deep in the postseason.

“We punched our ticket into the Final Four, and now it’s time to maybe check off some things that we’ve wanted to do, which is win the national championship,” Staley said Sunday after her team’s 80-74 victory over the Seminoles in the Elite Eight.

While South Carolina’s history may not stand up to the pedigree of programs such as Connecticut, Notre Dame or Tennessee, the Gamecocks have shown that they can play with talented teams this season, going 10-2 against ranked opponents.

Junior guard Tiffany Mitchell even thinks that South Carolina’s lack of experience might help them in Tampa Bay.

“I think that’s going to play into our advantage being that we are the new kids on the block in the Final Four,” Mitchell said. “I think that puts more pressure on them. We are just going out there and we are playing, so I think that puts more pressure to say you’ve been there already.”

Although having to face a team as talented and consistently successful as Notre Dame will be a daunting task for South Carolina, the Gamecocks believe they’re skillful enough to compete with anyone.

According to Mitchell, South Carolina will rely on one particular experience from earlier in the season when preparing to face tough opponents in the Final Four.

“I think the Connecticut game did help us because there’s another level of basketball out there and we are starting to realize that and we are playing pretty good basketball right now,” Mitchell said.