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Vic Schaefer, Dawn Staley in Elite Eight battle of familiar coaching foes

Mar 30, 2021

By Tamryn Spruill

Vic Schaefer can escape the Southeastern Conference (SEC) but he can’t avoid a postseason meeting with Dawn Staley apparently. The South Carolina Gamecocks, under master-planning from Hall of Fame coach Staley, won six of the last SEC Tournament titles in head-to-head matchups with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, coached by Schaefer until 2020.

The one SEC Tournament title the Gamecocks didn’t win went to the Bulldogs in 2019 when Teaira McCowan and Anriel Howard led Mississippi State to a 101-70 blowout of the Arkansas Razorbacks. That year, South Carolina was in both a gap season and a holding pattern: awaiting the arrival of the No. 1 recruiting class of 2019-20 season and searching for ways to win without A’ja Wilson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft.

Schaefer moved into the Big 12 in 2020-21 to coach the Texas Longhorns, where he had to deal with Kim Mulkey and the Baylor Lady Bears, who bounced Texas from the Big 12 Tournament in the semifinals and went on to win it. He now faces familiar coaching rival, Staley, much deeper into the postseason and with much more on the line.

He is no slouch, though, and his teams play with a lot of heart; the Longhorns pulled off an epic upset of the favored Maryland Terrapins in the Sweet Sixteen round to advance to its Elite Eight meeting with South Carolina.

The Gamecocks, meanwhile, eked out an ugly win against a scrappy and engaged Georgia Tech Yellowjackets squad coached by Nell Fortner, who coached Staley on Team USA in the early 2000s.

Now, Staley sets her sights on knocking Schaefer out of the postseason yet again, with both of their coaching legacies and advancement to the Final Four, at stake.

Sting 5

In various outfits this tournament season, Staley has been rocking No. 5, her jersey number from her playing days in the WNBA with the now-defunct Charlotte Sting.

If paying homage to her own speedy, high-IQ style of balling and shot-calling is a bit of intentional luck for her Gamecocks, look for Staley to make another big statement with the digit on Tuesday.

South Carolina and Texas tip off their Elite Eight matchup at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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