ESPN has released its first projection for the NCAA championship bracket of the season, and while it’s still several months away from the official release of the bracket in March, we now have women’s hoops expert Charlie Creme’s predictions for the upcoming year.
And, somewhat surprisingly, South Carolina is not a No. 1 seed. Instead, the Gamecocks are only a No. 2 seed in the South Region — behind top seeds Connecticut, Stanford, Baylor and the team atop their region, Texas.
USC and head coach Dawn Staley have been a No. 1 seed four years in a row, though often atop regions that are far from Columbia, forcing the team to travel and sometimes face lower seeds with much shorter journeys. In Creme’s projected bracket, the Gamecocks would play their first two games at Colonial Life Arena, then travel to Lexington, Kentucky, for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. The Final Four this season is being held in Columbus, Ohio.
Creme also selected seven other SEC teams to make the tourney, matching the conference’s total from last season. Within the South Region, South Carolina is joined by Texas A&M, a No. 5 seed. Fellow SEC teams in the bracketology update include Mississippi State, also a No. 2 seed, Tennessee, a No. 4 seed, Missouri, a No. 5 seed, LSU, a No. 7 seed, Kentucky, a No. 8 seed, and Alabama, a No. 10 seed.
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In the preseason editions of the USA Today coaches poll and Associated Press poll released in recent weeks, South Carolina was ranked No. 2 and No. 4 in the nation, respectively. However, Staley does have to replace three starters from last season’s national title squad.
South Carolina has played one exhibition game this preseason, routing Coker 116-56 last Friday. The Gamecocks will open their regular season this Friday at 7 p.m. against Alabama State at Colonial Life Arena