The South Carolina women’s basketball team received a fifth seed in the NCAA tournament and will play 12th-seed Eastern Michigan in West Lafayette, Ind., on Saturday.
USC’s Fresno regional meeting with Eastern Michigan (23-8) is the first ever between the schools. The Eagles finished with the second-best records in the Mid-American Conference this season and won the conference tournament.
The winner could face host No. 14 Purdue, winner of the Big Ten tournament, in the second round Monday. Top seed Standford is on the same side of the bracket — setting up a potential Sweet 16 meeting with the nation’s second-ranked team.
Gamecock players and coaches, wearing matching black “I believe” T-shirts, cheered when they heard the official word of their bid while watching the selection show in the McGuire Club at Colonial Life Arena. Several hundred fans crowding the room to hear the news roared.
The bid is the Gamecocks’ ninth to the NCAAs. South Carolina (23-9) has not been to the tournament since 2003. USC has gone past the second round just twice -- a Sweet 16 in 1990 and an Elite Eight in 2002.
The NCAA trip will be head coach Dawn Staley’s seventh. She went to the tournament six times at Temple, though never got past the second round. The Gamecocks last in two rounds of the women’s NIT last season.
USC notched its most victories in nine years and reached the semifinals of the SEC tournament for the first time while winning a decade-high 10 conference games.
The Gamecocks are ranked 32nd in RPI with the 46th toughest strength of schedule, according to NCAA rankings.
The SEC has the nation’s second-highest RPI and landed a record eight teams in the NCAA field for the second time since 1999