The two teams have played each other twice this season, with South Carolina winning both, 64-61 on their home court and 59-49 in the SEC Tournament, which was played in Greenville, SC.
No. 2 seed Mississippi State, ranked 7th nationally, has earned the right to play in the game by defeating two number 1 seeds in overtime in their last two games, Baylor 94-85 and UConn 66-64. Baylor was also ranked 5th in the nation while UConn was ranked 1st and had a 111-game winning streak broken with the loss to MSU.
South Carolina, a number 1 seed and ranked 3rd in the nation, in their last two NCAA games have defeated two top 10 ranked teams to advance to the game, number 3 seed and 10th ranked Florida State 71-64 and number 2 seed and 6th ranked Stanford 62-53.
Here are the 10 key factors in the game, several that favor MSU and several that favor South Carolina.
1) The Offensive X Factor for MSU - When the two teams met earlier in the year MSU’s Victoria Vivians was in an offensive slump and only averaged 10.1 points per game against the Gamecocks. She has since come out of her slump and has averaged 18.7 in the last three NCAA Tournament games.
2) Morgan William Turnover Factor - MSU point guard Morgan William has played her best ball of the year in the last two games against teams ranked 5th and 1st in the nation, scoring 54 points (27 point per game average), while dishing out 13 assists and only turning the ball over just twice. In her two games against South Carolina she averaged 9 points per game, had 8 turnovers and 7 assists.
3) Location of the Game Factor – Both games this season have been played in South Carolina’s home state. So, this will be the first game played in a neutral state.
4) The Crowd Factor – Fans of both schools travel well but neutral fans will likely be pulling for Mississippi State. In their first two encounters this season South Carolina had a tremendous fan advantage.
5) A’ja Wilson Consistency Factor – South Carolina’s Wilson, one of the top players in the nation, has seen a downward trend in her scoring in the last three NCAA Tournament games, scoring 24, 16 and 13 points.
6) Kaela Davis Factor – The play of South Carolina’s Davis in the second game against MSU was likely the deciding factor in the 10-point win over Mississippi State. After scoring just four points against MSU in the first game, a 3-point win by South Carolina on their home court, she scored 23 in the second game. And she has played well in the last three games of the NCAA Tournament, averaging 19.0 points per game.
7) Emotions Factor – Mississippi State defeated number 1 ranked UConn, a team that had run off 111 wins in a row, in a game that was tooth and nail through four quarters and an overtime. During the post-game, the Mississippi State players justifiably celebrated on the court as if they had just won the national championship. Meanwhile, South Carolina took care of business by doing what was expected of them by defeating a number 2 seed by nine points.
8) National Championship Game Nerves Factor – Neither school’s women’s basketball program has ever played in a national championship game. But South Carolina has won national championships in other sports while Mississippi State has never won a team national championship in any sport.
9) The Coaching Factor – South Carolina’s Dawn Staley has never lost to Mississippi State’s Vic Schaefer while coaching at South Carolina. She is 8-0 against Schaefer since he became head coach at MSU. However, each season, MSU has come closer to defeating South Carolina.
10) The Dak Prescott Factor – Dak Prescott played football for MSU and now is playing for the Dallas Cowboys. How can you lose when he is pulling for you?
South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley – “Mississippi State is much different than they were in that sixth game in which we played them in the SEC Tournament Championship. They are playing at an all-time high. Morgan William is playing some of the best basketball that I’ve ever seen played (by) a player. You have to give her different looks. You have to make sure that she’s not getting hot and into a groove.”
Mississippi State Head Coach Vic Schaefer – “They are fast. They’re getting up and down the floor well. Cuevas, she may be faster, as fast as my two are. Those kids are just in attack mode. They do a great job, for the most part, they can stretch you and shoot it. I think for them, obviously (Kaela) Davis is playing with so much confidence right now. She hurt us when we played them in the second ballgame.”
Round 3 starts at 5 pm central time Sunday afternoon in the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas before a packed house.