Coming into the 2015-16 season, everyone in and around women's college basketball expected South Carolina to be right where they are: a top seed in the NCAA tournament, and as hosts for the first two rounds inside Colonial Life Arena.
The same can't be said for the Atlantic Sun Champion Jacksonville Dolphins. In fact, it's more miracle than anything else that they're still hanging around this late in March. Thanks to a 13-point comeback victory against Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun Championship, the Dolphins find themselves in their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Dawn Staley's team and the Gamecocks faithful are ready and waiting to welcome them to the dance. Here's what you need to know in lead-up to the teams' round of 64 meeting:
(1) South Carolina Gamecocks vs. (16) Jacksonville Dolphins
When: Friday, March 18th, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, S.C.
How to watch: ESPN2, WatchESPN
Three Point Preview
1. 2016 marks the Gamecocks' 13th NCAA Tournament appearance. South Carolina is 17-12 overall in the NCAAs and is coming off their best finish in program history: a 2015 Final Four appearance. Head coach Dawn Staley will make her 11th overall appearance. While the Gamecocks don't yet have a national championship to their name, they enter Friday's matchup as tournament veterans compared to their opponent.
2. While the Jacksonville Dolphins have some experience against Power Five opponents this season, they'll be looking for their first victory against such an opponent Friday night. The Dolphins went up against three ACC teams on the road in Wake Forest, Syracuse and Florida St. during their non-conference season, but came up empty in all three. That experience should at least help ease the nerves in front of a raucous CLA.
3. Size, or lack thereof, may be the deciding factor in this one. The Dolphins enter the game drastically undersized compared to the lengthy Gamecocks. The Dolphins don't have a player listed above 6 feet, while South Carolina's bigs average right around 6-4. South Carolina will aim to shut down the Dolphins' offense and limit their production in the paint.