Stanford and South Carolina Ride the Hot Hand into the Final Four

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It’s a good year to be a ball player in a South Carolina Gamecock uniform. Both the men and women’s basketball teams have played their way into the Final Four. Forget the luck of the Irish, 2017 is all about the luck of the Gamecock. In 2016, it was Syracuse earning a berth in the Final Four for both the men and women’s programs. In 2014 UCONN found the magic formula to winning it all. In 2014, the UCONN took their ball and went home with both the men and women’s NCAA Championships. 2014 was the beginning of the UCONN women’s latest streak. The Huskies ended the season with a Championship after going 40 -0. The UCONN men defeated Kentucky in the title game.

A’ja Wilson is from South Carolina. As the “resident expert” on the state she was asked about her thoughts considering the state and the school were being represented in the Final Four by two minority coaches.

“I think it’s a great thing. Like you said, I’m from South Carolina. Just to see the two coaches really come up and change the program.  I love this feeling. I love this sight I’m seeing. The sky’s the limit for both of these programs.

The Lady Gamecocks ended Florida State’s season with a  71-64  win in Stockton, CA to punch their ticket to the school’s second Final Four appearance in the program’s history.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley played for Tara VanDerveer during the 1996 Olympic Games.

“I’m 0-fer. I’m part of the 1,000 wins that she has. I’m one of the defeated teams in that total win category, I mean, she’s a hard win. She’s been in these situations a number of times, and she definitely uses her experience against us. We’re hoping that Dallas brings us a little bit of different luck.

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Stanford overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat Notre Dame 76-75 in Lexington, Kentucky This is Stanford’s 16th Final Four appearance.  Sophomore Alanna Smith hit the game-winning shot with 23 seconds left on the clock. Senior Erica McCall sealed the deal blocking Arike Ogunbowale’s shot as time expired.

VanDerveer summed up the grittiness of her team before leaving for the Final Four. “ This is a blue-collar team in the proud tradition of Jim Harbaugh. This is a put on your boots, put on your hardhat, bring your lunch bucket. This is that kind of team.  I’ve never been prouder of this team. "

Coach VanDerveer also shared praise for Coach Staley.

“Dawn is extremely competitive.  She’s very intelligent. She’s very passionate about basketball. I see all these things, having coached her and known her for, I guess about 30 years.

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Two of the three USBA Basketball coaches appearing in the Final Four this weekend are coaching on this matchup. The three USBA Basketball coaches are Geno Auriemma of UCONN and Tara VanDerveer of Stanford have both previously coached Olympic teams.   Dawn Staley is a new comer to the Olympic coaching club. USA Basketball announced earlier this year that Dawn Staley would coach the Olympic team in the 2020 Olympic Games. earlier this year.