Fresh off victories over Cal State-Northridge and Oregon St. in the first and second rounds, South Carolina now faces a tougher test in the Sweet 16 against North Carolina. The Tar Heels are the four seed. To get this far, UNC narrowly escaped an upset against Tennessee-Martin in the first round. They then played much better in dismantling five seed Michigan St. in the second round.
UNC has had an up-antnd-down season that included several impressive wins over good teams including South Carolina but that also included a three-game losing streak in ACC play and, later, an embarrassing loss to conference whipping post Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels are loaded with talent after signing four top 25 recruits in the 2013 cycle. In terms of raw talent, UNC is one of the most talented teams in the nation; certainly, compared to our prior two opponents, the Tar Heels are much more comparable to USC in terms of length, shooting ability, and so forth. However, the Heels rely heavily on some of their young players, which has led to uneven performances over the course of the season. The Heels have also had to deal with the emotional rollercoaster of head coach Sylvia Hatchell's battle with leukemia. Andrew Calder has served as head coach in the interim.
Since UNC handed South Carolina its first loss early in the season, both teams have improved. The Gamecocks have gelled offensively after making an increased commitment to taking advantage of the athleticism in the post provided by Aleighsa Welch, Alaina Coates, and Elem Ibiam. The Tar Heels, like many young teams, have begun showing flashes of greatness late in the season, although the ugly first half against Tennessee-Martin suggests they still have streaks of bad basketball in them.
One advantage that South Carolina enjoys is that the Gamecocks stayed on the West Coast instead of traveling back and forth cross country. UNC traveled back to Chapel Hill, so the Tar Heels may be dealing with traveling fatigue while USC has acclimated to Pacific time.