Gamecocks’ quest for No. 1 tournament seed turns sour

SEC tourney champ Vols seem to have NCAA resume to leap USC

dcloninger@thestate.comMarch 9, 2014 

Coach Dawn Staley instructs her team during the second half of SEC tournament play at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 68-58.

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com

— Dawn Staley didn’t want to talk much about it.

One reason was because she doesn’t know what will go on in that room when the NCAA tournament selection committee meets. Another reason was because she has more pressing things on her mind – like getting fifth-ranked South Carolina to play like the team that won the SEC regular-season championship, not stumbled to two losses in its past three games, including on Saturday to a Kentucky team it had beaten twice this year.

The waiting is beginning for everybody, since the selection committee won’t announce the NCAA women’s bracket for another week. But some teams – such as Tennessee – were playing on Sunday while the Gamecocks weren’t.

USC had been projected to be a top seed in the NCAA tournament for the past few weeks. But, on Sunday, bracketologist Charlie Creme’s latest edition had the Gamecocks slipping to a No. 2 seed. Tennessee, which won the SEC tournament later on Sunday, had taken over as the fourth No. 1.

“We had control of it if we were to keep winning. But, at this point, I can’t even elaborate on it,” Staley said after the Kentucky loss.

The Gamecocks had edged into the discussion with their regular-season championship run. UConn and Notre Dame, each undefeated, will receive top seeds, and the other two were up for debate. Stanford has been a constant as well, with three losses this season – to Washington, UConn and Southern Cal.

That left two others fighting for the final No. 1 spot. Louisville has lost three games, but two have been to UConn. The Cardinals’ RPI is one spot below USC’s, and their strength of schedule is a less-than-impressive 53, by far the lowest in the RPI top 10.

Creme placed Louisville as a No. 2 seed in Sunday’s update.

Tennessee has lost five games – to Stanford, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Kentucky and LSU – but ranks one spot above USC in RPI, and 22 spots above in strength of schedule. The Lady Vols also beat the Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks seem to be out of luck.

Louisville is also still playing, preparing for the American Athletic Conference tournament final against UConn on Monday night. Even if the Cardinals knock off the Huskies, that doesn’t do USC any favors, since it would boost Louisville and UConn wouldn’t fall far with one loss.

While Stanford was beaten by Southern Cal in the Pac-12 tournament, the Gamecocks were beaten in their conference tournament while Tennessee won it. The Cardinal rank higher than USC in RPI and SOS.

SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell, downcast in the locker room, was as non-committal as her coach.

“That’s up to the board,” she said. “We controlled our own destiny, and we fell short today.”

RPI and SOS numbers via realtimerpi.com. Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

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