South Carolina women’s basketball earned the No. 1 seed in the Hemisfair Region of the upcoming women’s NCAA Tournament, and will face No. 16 seed Mercer. This marks the program's fifth No. 1 seed all-time and first since 2017, when the Gamecocks won their first NCAA Championship.
Dawn Staley had led the Gamecocks to six straight Sweet 16 appearances before the tournament was canceled last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be looking to continue that trend after the tournament’s one-year hiatus.
“Bottom line, this team wants to play," Staley said after learning of her team's selection. "So, they're going to do what we’re asking them to do, to play the game that they love and do it at one of the most exciting times of their college careers.”
After winning their sixth SEC Tournament Championship in the last seven seasons, Staley and her squad now turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks finished No. 6 in the final women’s Associated Press poll of the season with a 22-4 (14-2 SEC) record.
The Gamecocks’ four losses all came to teams that finished in the top fifteen of the final rankings, as they came up short in overtime against No. 1 UConn and lost close games to No. 3 North Carolina State, No. 4 Texas A&M and No. 13 Tennessee. All four teams also earned berths into the tournament but none are in the Gamecocks' region.
South Carolina will enter the tournament facing some adversity off the bat after an injury to the lone senior on the roster, LeLe Grissett.
“LeLe sustained a lower leg injury and she won’t be participating in any NCAA Tournament games, but she will be with us,” Staley said, adding that younger players will have to be ready when their number is called.
South Carolina’s first tournament game will be on March 21 at 6 p.m. as they will face No. 16 seed Mercer.