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South Carolina Gamecocks women's basketball prepping for toughest stretch of the season

The next three games are against teams either in the top 12 or receiving votes, so, yeah, they're pretty important.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

So are the South Carolina Gamecocks a serious contender to win a national championship? To not just make the Women's Final Four, but to win it all? We may know soon enough, as the team heads into a treacherous stretch of games beginning Sunday that will pit them against three straight teams ranked in the AP's top 12.

And while dropping either of them won't make or break the season - they'll still make the NCAA Tournament easily barring a late season collapse - you might argue that a team with their eyes set on knocking out superpower UConn shouldn't lose any of them.

--It starts on Sunday, when the Gamecocks head to College Station to take on the #10 Texas A&M Aggies. The Gamecocks slipped past the Aggies back on January 17, but with the scene having shifted to Aggieland, the home crowd will be firmly behind their team.

--Things head back to Colonial Life Arena next Thursday, when #12 Kentucky comes to town. The Gamecocks struggled in a big way against the Wildcats before breaking away with a 73-62 win on January 14. You can be sure that the pressure will be dialed up even more as the Cats come into town looking for revenge.

--Both of those games pale in comparison to the one that will take place on February 8. If you haven't gotten your ticket yet to see #1 UConn vs. #2 South Carolina, you might want to hit up StubHub (last check had the lowest priced-ticket at $47) because the only available tickets are for students. Every women's college basketball fan in the country is hoping that none of those teams will have taken a loss by then.

it would be easy for Gamecocks fans to "look past" Texas A&M and Kentucky and fix their eyes on 2/8, but there's no looking past the Aggies and the Wildcats. Both are two very dangerous teams, poised to knock the Gamecocks from the ranks of the unbeaten and ready to stake their claim as a program to watch in the NCAA Tournament.

But back to Carolina. Again, losing any of these three games won't make or break their season. But the goal is a championship. If they're able to come out of this stretch 3-0, capped with a win against a UConn team that's won all but six games by greater than 40 points, boasts one of the best players in the country in Breanna Stewart and is led by the legendary Geno Auriemma, then that will cause quite a shift to the landscape.