The Daily Gamecock

USC snags a 4 seed for NCAA Tournament

Women’s basketball heads to Boulder, Colo., for 1st round


Dawn Staley was starting to get nervous.

At South Carolina’s watch party for the women’s basketball NCAA Tournament Selection Show, USC’s coach waited through the unveiling of two regionals without the Gamecocks flashing across the screen.

But as more of the bracket was unveiled, Staley started to anticipate USC’s fate. As the No. 4 seed in the Norfolk Region, the Gamecocks will travel to Boulder, Colo., to play South Dakota State on March 23. If USC advances to the Sweet 16, it would likely play No. 1 seed Notre Dame in Norfolk, Va.

“They made us wait a little bit longer and let the excitement build up to a point where I was kind of nervous, and that doesn’t happen very often,” Staley said. “The anticipation of seeing your name across the screen is a beautiful thing and the way that the room exploded when our names did get called.”

Only returning three players who had significant minutes last season, USC (24-7) was not expected to replicate its success last year. Before an energetic crowd of fans, coaches and USC President Harris Pastides in a leather jacket, the Gamecocks celebrated not only improving their record from 2012 but being seeded one higher. The Gamecocks lost to Stanford last season in the Sweet 16.

“I think it goes to show that when you’re trying to put a program together, you bring players in here that will be able to mature and grow into different positions and also just grow as leaders,” Staley said.

“This team just has a will to win,” sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch said. “That’s not to say last year’s team didn’t, because we wanted it, but this team has kind of a chip on its shoulder like we’ve got something to prove because no one really expected us to be here today.”

Staley said this year’s team has the benefit of the 2012 postseason experience of winning two games in West Lafayette, Ind. The Gamecocks are the highest seed in their pod, paving a road easier to the Sweet 16, though they will likely match up against home team Colorado in the round of 32.

“It would have been nice to be a little bit closer to have our fans come out with us,” Staley said. “We’ve been in a gym where there weren’t many people cheering for us. Our experience in the SEC will pay big dividends for us playing in Boulder.”

The distance from home won’t be the only challenge for the Gamecocks. Senior point guard Ieasia Walker has played in Colorado before for a basketball camp and said it will be an adjustment for the team to acquaint to the thin air from the high altitude.

In a room full of supporters, the challenges ahead took a back seat to the celebratory spirit. Walker said she can see the past two years as the start of a new legacy at South Carolina. For Welch, it was a dream realized.

“It means a lot to me because this is exactly why I chose to come here,” Welch said. “When I chose to come to South Carolina, I don’t think a lot of people understood why. Not a lot of people saw what I saw and felt what I felt. Just to see everything blossom into above and beyond what I expected, it just really means a lot to me and shows me that I made the right choice.”


Trending Now

Send a Tip Get Our Email Editions