The Last Time
South Carolina knocked off Syracuse 97-68 in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament to end the Orange's season. This after the two teams met in the non-conference portion of the same season, where the Gamecocks prevailed 67-63. The NCAA Tournament game was played on South Carolina's home floor, however.
In that game, Syracuse shot just 33% from the floor, while South Carolina hit a blistering 55% of their shots. That includes going 8-19 from beyond the three-point arc.
The Orange was never in the game, falling behind early and unable to make any meaningful type of comeback. Syracuse turned it over 13 times, only had eight assists as a team compared to 20 for South Carolina, and were thoroughly outplayed.
What to Watch For
Turnovers: Syracuse is the nation's best team in forcing turnovers. This is largely because of their full court pressure defense. South Carolina saw it twice last year, so that gives them some familiarity. Still, the Orange will put pressure on the Gamecock guards. They average 14 turnovers per game, which could play into Syracuse's hands. The Orange have to take care of the ball themselves, as they were a bit sloppy in that department in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Three-Point Shooting: Syracuse loves to shoot from the outside. Can you blame them? With players like Brianna Butler (NCAA active leader in three-pointers made), Alexis Peterson and Maggie Morrison. Their ability to connect from the outside will be critical if they are to pull an upset. The Gamecocks have a couple of sharp shooters themselves in guards Tiffany Mitchell and Tina Roy. Limiting their looks is important for SU.
Star Power: South Carolina has two superstars in the aforementioned Tiffany Mitchell and forward A'ja Wilson. They average 15 and 16 points, respectively. Wilson is also the leading shot blocker and second leading rebounder on the team. Both are big time players who hurt Syracuse last season. Syracuse has to try to limit their effectiveness in this one. Conversely, Syracuse has some stars of their own. Butler can get hot and put up big scoring numbers at any time. Peterson has been one of the best point guards in the country this season and can also score in bunches. Brittney Sykes had a monster game in the second round and has enough offensive versatility to make an impact.
Controlling the Paint: Wilson and center Alaina Coates provide South Carolina with a dynamic and talented front court. At 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4, they have size, length and strength to control the interior. Both are also excellent rebounders and accomplished shot blockers. If Syracuse is to pull an upset, Briana and Bria Day have to neutralize them to some extent. Brianna Butler checking Wilson is also important. Syracuse can drive the ball with Peterson or junior guard Brittney Sykes. They have to finish when given the opportunity.