The fifth-seeded North Carolina women’s basketball team, 26-9 on the season, will play top-seeded South Carolina, 29-4 on the year, Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. in the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen. It’s a rematch of a December win for the Tar Heels.
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Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell has some positive developments in her continued battle with leukemia.
“I’m actually doing fantastic. We’re waiting on my immune system to do one of my favorite words that I ever say: rebound. I love the word rebound. My immune system is coming up daily. We’re just waiting on it to rebound to full strength. It’s close to that,” Coach Hatchell says.
The Tar Heel coach, sidelined for the entirety of the season, says she’s been proud of Carolina’s progression this year, but has taken issue with a recent shocking snub of Carolina’s Diamond DeShields off the Coaches Association All-American ballot.
Coach Hatchell says it makes no sense at all that the National Freshman of the Year was left off the list.
“I am confident that when the WBCA committee meets on Tuesday, they will review the situation and take appropriate immediate action. There is no way that you can tell me that Diamond DeShields is not one of the top 52 players in this country,” Coach Hatchell says.
DeShields says she will only use her omission as motivation to get even better as a basketball player. She says she enjoys going out on the court and putting on a show for fans and spectators.
“I know God has blessed me with a bunch of talents. I am able to entertain with my athletic abilities and with my demeanor and swagger on the court. People love it or hate it. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to keep doing it. It’s just a blessing. It comes natural to me,” DeShields says.
And as for the rematch with the Gamecocks? DeShields says she really feels comfortable with the ins and outs of how South Carolina runs plays.
“I understand what’s at stake. I understand we already beat them. They’re going to come out ready to play. I understand their player tendencies, maneuvers on the court, and things of that sort,” DeShields says.
Sunday’s contest will be a clash of two different playing styles. North Carolina is a high-powered, up-tempo offense that likes to turn the game into a track meet while South Carolina prefers to slow the game down to a methodical grind.
Whoever is able to dictate the pace of play, is likely to find the winning formula and advance to the Elite Eight, where they will meet the winner between second-seeded Stanford and third-seeded Penn State.
And if the Tar Heels are able to scrape through the Stanford regional, Nashville will await them. Coach Hatchell says she might just be on the sidelines with them in the MusicCity.
“Dr. Voorhies, yesterday morning, he told me that when the team goes to the Final Four in Nashville, that is very doable,” Coach Hatchell says.