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March 23, 2014

NCAA Preview: USC v Cal State Northridge

Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Site: Alaska Airlines Arena
TV: ESPN (ESPN will have "Whip-around" coverage nationally. Viewers in South Carolina should see this game in its entirety.)

South Carolina flew out to Seattle on Friday and practiced on Saturday. The Gamecocks are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament and validate their number one seed. Up first are the Cal State Northridge Matadors.

The Matadors are making their second appearance in the NCAA Tournament and seeking their first win. The Matadors are led by junior guard Ashlee Guay. The Big West Player of the Year, Guay is the Matadors' career leader in assists and averages nearly sixteen points and five rebounds per game. Cal State Northridge also has a formidable post presence in 6-2 center Camille Mahlknecht. Mahlknecht blocked 101 shots this season, including 11 in a single game. She blocked 75 shots last season, but obviously against lesser competition than South Carolina. Mahlknecht will need to be effective for the Matadors to have a chance at the upset.

The Gamecocks and Matadors have never met, but share two common opponents this season. Both teams played, and defeated, Clemson and Southern Cal. South Carolina won both games on the road, 68-43 over Clemson and 70-50 over Southern Cal. Cal State Northridge won 69-53 at Clemson, and defeated the visiting Trojans 65-64. The Trojans were a nine seed that lost to St. John's on Saturday.

Seattle site breakdown
South Carolina goes from one awkwardly-titled venue (The Arena at Gwinnett Center) to another. The full name of the Seattle host venue is Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. The arena is home to the University of Washington Huskies, who did not make the tournament. The other two teams at the site are the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8) and Oregon State Beavers (9). They play in the nightcap on Sunday.

Oregon State is making its first tournament appearance since 1996. Middle Tennessee is making its sixth consecutive appearance. The Beavers and Blue Raiders have never met before. Middle Tennessee assistant coach Alysha Clark is also a player for the Seattle Storm WNBA team.

The round of 32 game between the two winners in Seattle will be played on Tuesday, March 25.

* The South Carolina single-season blocks record was broken twice this season. Lakesha Tolliver blocked 60 shots in 2006-07, but now finds herself with the third-best season ever. Elem Ibiam had 82 blocks this season to take the record, while Alaina Coates had 64 to move into second place and set the freshman record. Ibiam is 48 blocks behind Tolliver on the career charts. Not surprisingly, South Carolina set the team record for blocks in a season, with 225 (7.3 per game, second in the nation).
* South Carolina is seeking its 700th win in program history. The all-time record is 699-499. South Carolina has won five consecutive first round games in the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina is making its third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, second most in program history behind the four straight from 1988 to 1991.
* Coates is still in search of her ninth double-double of the season, which would tie the Gamecock freshman record held by Kelsey Bone.
* In the history of the NCAA Tournament, men and women, a number sixteen seed has upset a number one seed only once. In 1998, Harvard upset Stanford 71-67 on the Cardinal's home court. That year, the Crimson were led by Chester, SC, native Allison Feaster, who led the nation in scoring. Feaster was a teammate of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley with the WNBA's Charlotte Sting.

Quick hits:
On Friday, former Gamecock Courtney Newton was named the new varsity girls basketball coach at Lexington High School. Newton was a senior on the 2012 Sweet Sixteen team... The Matadors all-time record includes a tie. In 2001 their game against Eastern Washington was declared a tie following a power outage... The Seattle pod is in the latest slot for start times on Sunday. Three-quarters of the second round will already be determined when South Carolina tips off.

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