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FSU women meet South Carolina in the Elite 8

The program's first Final Four berth is on the line tonight.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The (3) Florida State Seminoles (28-6) will meet the (1) South Carolina Gamecocks (30-4) today in Stockton, CA with a Final Four berth on the line. This game will be a rematch of the Elite 8 game in 2015 when USC defeated FSU 80-74 in Greensboro, NC in a game which FSU led most of the way and probably should have won.

There will not be any secrets between these two teams. Even though they didn't play in the regular season the Seminoles and Gamecocks were scrimmage partners over the summer. They know each other well.

Let's take a closer look at South Carolina.

The Gamecocks are coached by Dawn Staley who came to Columbia from Temple in 2008. Staley is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the three time Olympic gold medalist has been named the United States National team head coach replacing Geno Auriemma.

Staley has really turned the program around. In her first year USC struggled to a 10-18 record. However, the last three years have seen records of 33-2, 34-2 and 29-5 to go with this year's 30-4 mark.

South Carolina is a balanced team. They are 7th nationally in OPPP at 1.095 and 11th in DPPP at .797. FSU is 11th in OPPP at 1.066 and 5th in DPPP at .779. They play at a bit of a slower pace than FSU. The Noles are 58th nationally in pace while the Gamecocks are 169th.

USC does not rely on the three point shot for offense. They like to pound the rock inside to their post players and let their guards slash to the basket. Defensively they are very good at protecting the rim as they block about 5.6 shots a game.  They are also a good rebounding team although FSU is statistically better. However, the team stats for USC are a bit skewed because they don't play the same way since the Alaina Coates injury.

Before we discuss the players South Carolina will have let's talk about the one they won't have. Unfortunately, Alaina Coates is out for the year with an ankle injury. She suffered the injury on March 4 against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament. The all-SEC first teamer was averaging 12.9 points and a team high 10.7 rebounds.

The 6'4 Coates was obviously a big help offensively but her loss will be felt most keenly by the Gamecocks on the boards and defensively. Also, her loss leaves USC really thin in the post after A'ja Wilson.

Wilson is their other twin tower. She was the SEC player of the year last year as a sophomore. This year she leads the team in scoring at 17.9 points. She also chips in 7.5 rebounds and she blocks 2.5 shots a game. At 6'5 Wilson is a skilled, athletic post player. She is probably going to get her numbers against Florida State. If FSU is to win they need to keep the other players from going off.

Kaela Davis is first on that list. You may remember Davis. She is a transfer from Georgia Tech where she was all-ACC first team as a sophomore. Davis is the daughter of former NBA all-star and current ESPN analyst Antonio Davis. Kaela is an extremely difficult wing to guard. She is averaging 12.7 points a game but that number is basically meaningless because her offensive role has increased since the injury to Coates. Since the injury USC has had two competitive games (Arizona State and Mississippi State) and Davis scored 20 against ASU and 23 against MSU. She is an athletic wing with size (6'2) who has range out to the three point line (.362 3PT). On top of that she is the best free throw shooter on the team (.806). If FSU can limit her effectiveness they will have a much better chance to win.

Of course Davis isn't the only threat as the Gamecocks have another impact transfer from the ACC in Allisha Gray. Gray suffered a knee injury in the second round against Arizona State but she seems recovered and she will play against FSU. The 6'0 Gray is a transfer from UNC who has had big games against FSU in the past. The former all-ACC first teamer is averaging 12.9 points. Gray takes the second most threes on the team but only hits 31.8% of them. Her real effectiveness comes from her ability to penetrate and get buckets with her exceptional finishing ability around the basket.

Bianca Cuevas-Moore and Tyasha Harris will share the point guard duties. Cuevas-Moore is a junior and she is probably USC's best three point threat (.379). She is the incumbent point guard but she has seen more of her responsibilities go to the freshman Harris of late. Harris is a quick pass first point. She likes to penetrate, draw the defense and then find an open teammate for a layup. However, she isn't much of a threat from deep and only hits 64.9% of her free throws.

This is a really talented team. Every player that I have discussed so far was either a 5* recruit, a McDonald's All-American or both. Unfortunately for USC there isn't a whole lot on the bench. The Gamecocks will only go seven deep (by choice) so if FSU can get them in foul trouble, especially Wilson, it will give the Noles a big edge.

Also, pushing the pace might help. Not because USC can't play fast but because fatigue may set in and that will help FSU.

Overall, of all of the number one seeds FSU could have drawn this is probably the best matchup for the Noles especially when you consider the injury to Coates. USC didn't announce that her injury would keep her out for the year until after the brackets had been announced. Yes, that is a bit of gamesmanship but every team would have done the same. The committee might very well have dropped them a seed line if they had known that Coates wasn't playing.

The game will be televised on ESPN tonight at 9pm. Sagarin has South Carolina as 4.5 point favorites but remember that most of his data was compiled when Coates was playing. The winner of this game will face Stanford in the Final Four in Dallas.

Common Opponents
Louisville W 83-59 (N) W 72-65 (H)
Texas W 76-67 (A) L 92-88 (H) 2OT
Duke L 74-63 (A) W 69-45 (H)
Clemson W 83-61 (H) W 86-27 (A)
W 80-47 (H)
Florida W 81-62 (A) W 83-58 (H)
UConn L 66-55 (A) L 78-76 (H)
Missouri L 62-60 (A) W 77-55 (H)