South Carolina women’s basketball team has been ranked as the No. 4 team in the nation by the Associated Press coming off its first national championship season ever.
The Gamecocks were picked behind No. 1 Connecticut, No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Baylor and ahead of future opponents No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 7 Mississippi State. Other ranked teams on USC’s schedule this year include No. 12 Duke, No. 14 Tennessee, No. 15 Maryland, No. 16 Missouri and No. 20 Texas A&M.
In last year’s preseason poll, South Carolina was also ranked No. 4 by the AP, and No. 2 the two seasons before that. The Gamecocks have never had a preseason No. 1 ranking.
Last week, the USA Today coaches poll slotted South Carolina at No. 2, behind UConn. The Gamecocks did receive seven of 32 first place votes in that poll. Sports Illustrated, on the other hand, has picked USC as the No. 10 team in the country, behind four other teams it will play this season, including SEC rival Mississippi State.
While South Carolina is the defending national champion, coach Dawn Staley loses three starters from last year’s team, all of whom were taken in the WNBA draft. While the Gamecocks do have preseason National Player of the Year favorite A’ja Wilson, it is still unclear who else will step up to fill the void left by Kaela Davis, Allisha Gray and Alaina Coates.
Both the media and the coaches of the SEC have picked the Gamecocks to win their fourth straight SEC title this year.