It’s a long way from March, but ESPN has gone ahead and released its first projection of the 2019 women’s NCAA tournament field.
For South Carolina fans, that projection, compiled as usual by Charlie Creme, highlights how much work the No. 22 Gamecocks have to do after their worst start since 2010 — Creme currently has USC as a No. 8 seed facing Georgia Tech in the first round.
A No. 8 seed would mark the lowest starting position for Carolina in program history and would also mark the first time that Dawn Staley’s team would not host the first two rounds since the NCAA made the switch to having the highest seed host for the 2015 tournament.
Instead, according to Creme’s projections, the Gamecocks would have to travel to Storrs, Connecticut, as part of UConn’s pod of games in the larger Albany, New York, regional.
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USC played UConn in Albany in last year’s tournament in the Elite Eight, falling to the Huskies to end its national title defense.
So far this year, South Carolina has faced four ranked teams in eight games, losing each of those matchups. Starting Wednesday, however, it will play a six-week stretch of currently unranked teams, beginning with a home contest against Appalachian State.
The NCAA tournament committee will periodically reveal its top 16 teams in line to host throughout the season. The first reveal typically happens in mid-January.
There is a small wrinkle — Because Colonial Life Arena is set to host games from the first two rounds of the men’s tournament this March, even if the women do earn the right to host, they will have to apply to the NCAA for a waiver to “host” somewhere else in-state, athletic director Ray Tanner said in 2017.