South Carolina women's basketball's 2018-2019 season is coming into focus. As always, it will include some major clashes with top programs, including one contest with some added off-court drama.
The Gamecocks announced in a press release Tuesday which SEC games will be at Colonial Life Arena in the upcoming season, and which will be away. The dates of the contest have yet to be released, but fans now know that USC will play Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt at home in 2018-2019, while traveling to Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
Also included in the press release was the news that coach Dawn Staley is planning on bringing two major nonconference opponents to Columbia this season as well — Maryland and Baylor, both of whom are likely to be top-10 teams.
But for Gamecock fans, the conference home slate will be full of clashes against traditional rivals Georgia, Florida and Kentucky, as well as two-time national runner-up Mississippi State, and perhaps most interestingly, Missouri.
The Tigers and the Gamecocks' rivalry has become particularly heated and ugly as of late, boiling over this past January, as a small scuffle broke out between the teams on the court of CLA, and Mizzou AD Jim Sterk later accused USC fans of using and racial epithets and spitting on Missouri players after that game, and Staley of promoting an atmosphere in which that took place.
The fallout from Sterk's comments included a still-ongoing conference review of South Carolina's security procedures and gameday management for visiting opponents, a fine for Sterk for criticizing Staley and a defamation lawsuit filed by Staley that was recently settled out of court.
This past week at SEC meetings in Destin, Florida, Staley said she had not made a point to meet with Sterk.
Almost all of the players at the center of the January scuffle are expected to return for this upcoming season, including controversial Mizzou star Sophie Cunningham, an all-conference performer who has drawn accusations of dirty play.
While the rest of South Carolina's schedule has yet to be announced, Purdue announced in early April that it will host the Gamecocks on Dec. 16.