It’s NCAA tournament time, and for the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team it was all smiles when the women’s bracket was unveiled Monday Night. The Gamecocks held a gathering party for the selection show at Colonial Life Arena that open to the public. The team had been rumored to be a #2 seed headed to the Lincoln Region, but Head Coach Dawn Staley and her players, along with a sizable crowd, erupted with cheers when ESPN announced the Gamecocks would be the #1 seed in the Stanford Region.
The #1 seed was much deserved. It was a banner year for the Gamecocks. The team finished the season 27-4 under Head Coach Dawn Staley, with a 14-2 record in the SEC, a league widely considered the best, and deepest, in the country. The Gamecocks captured their first ever outright SEC Championship along the way as well. The only drama heading into the selection show was whether the Gamecocks would be knocked off the number one line after losing two of their last three games to end the season. The selection committee spoke, and the answer was no.
South Carolina will not have an easy road to the Final Four, as many consider the Stanford Region to be the toughest region in the tournament. The team was shipped all the way to Seattle, Washington for their first two games of the tournament. The first two games shouldn’t be a problem for the Gamecocks. They open play against #16 seed CS Northridge, Sunday, March 23 at 5:30pm ET. If the team advances, they will face the winner of #8 seed Middle Tennessee State and #9 seed Oregon State on Tuesday.
From there, the Gamecocks got no favors. They face a possible rematch with #4 seed North Carolina in Stanford, CA in the Sweet Sixteen, a game in which the Gamecocks lost earlier this year in Myrtle Beach, 74-66. If the Gamecocks advance, they likely will face either #3 seed Penn State, or #2 seed Stanford in the Elite Eight for the right to go to the FInal Four. One obstacle for the Gamecocks if they advance to play Stanford in the Elite Eight, the game will be played on Stanford’s home floor.
*SEC Teams in NCAA Tourney: #1 South Carolina, #1 Tennessee, #3 Kentucky, #3 Texas A&M, #7 LSU, #8 Georgia, #8 Vanderbilt, #11 Florida*
Note: By the time the NCAA women’s basketball tournament concludes, over 30 cities will have hosted games. No games will be played in South Carolina or Mississippi because of the Confederate Flags that fly over the grounds in the state capitals of Columbia, SC and Jackson, MS. In 2001, the NCAA implemented a policy that would not allow those states to host any postseason games as long as the flags kept flying. The Gamecocks finished the season ranked #8 in the country and earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Normally, the NCAA will reward the top 16 teams, allowing them to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tourney on their home floors. All other #1 seeds, Connecticut, Tennessee and Notre Dame have roads to the FInal Four that will include two games on their home floors. Unfortunately, the Confederate Flag flying in Columbia has not only prevented the Gamecocks from hosting two games at Colonial Life Arena, they don’t even get to stay close to home as they were shipped all they way to Seattle, WA.
Regular Season Wrap-up: After going 10-18 with just two wins in the SEC in 2008, her first season at South Carolina, Head Coach Dawn Staley has turned around the program remarkably. The Gamecocks now have three straight 20-win seasons under Staley, and things only seem to be getting better. South Carolina currently has the #4 ranked recruiting class for 2014, and #1 overall prospect A’ja Wilson, who is from South Carolina, is down to four finalists: South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Connecticut.
Awards: Head Coach Dawn Staley was named SEC Coach of the Year, and is one of four finalists for National Coach of the Year. Sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell was named SEC Player of the Year, and was named First Team All-SEC. Junior forward Aleighsa Welch joins Mitchell as a First Team All-SEC player. Freshman center Alaina Coates was named SEC Freshman of the Year and Co-6th Woman of the Year. Mitchell and Junior center Elem Ibiam were named to the SEC First Team All-Defense Team.