USA Today has unveiled its first coaches poll of the year, and South Carolina is once again near the very top.
The Gamecocks checked in at No. 2 in the country in the preseason poll, right behind perennial power Connecticut. Dawn Staley’s squad did receive seven of 32 first-place votes as the defending national champions.
USC returns All-American forward A’ja Wilson for this season, but is without three WNBA picks — Allisha Gray, Kaela Davis and Alaina Coates.
Connecticut, meanwhile, returns five of its top six scorers from last season, which went 36-1 last season and lost to Mississippi State in the Final Four.
UConn and South Carolina will face off this season on Feb. 1 in Colonial Life Arena.
All told, the Gamecocks will face six, potentially seven, of the teams ranked in the top 20 of the poll: No. 18 Tennessee, No. 16 Missouri, No. 13 Maryland, No. 12 Duke, No. 4 Mississippi State, No. 1 Connecticut and No. 5 Notre Dame should both teams advance through the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament over Thanksgiving weekend.
Three other South Carolina foes this season, Texas A&M, Kentucky and LSU, received votes in the poll.
The other major women’s basketball poll, organized by the Associated Press, will be released on the morning of Nov. 2, with the AP’s preseason All-American team following on Nov. 7.