NCAA Tournament in Columbia: Impact on Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks
With a road win over No. 19 Kentucky on Thursday, South Carolina women’s basketball, currently ranked No. 16 in the country in the AP poll, continued to bolster its case for a top-four seed in March’s NCAA tournament.
Normally, those top 16 teams host the first two rounds of the tournament on campus, but for Dawn Staley’s program, that would be impossible this year, as Colonial Life Arena is set to host the first two rounds of the men’s tournament at that time.
Where that leaves the Gamecocks is still unclear. In a radio interview on 107.5 FM on Friday, USC athletic director Ray Tanner said that work is still ongoing to determine an alternate location, should South Carolina host.
“There could be some opportunities to host at another site that would be a few miles away. We’re working on that diligently. We’ve got some issues we’re trying to get through, but we’re going to do our best, if coach Staley’s team merits hosting, as in a top-16 seed, we’re going to do our very best to find a venue that our fans can get to,” Tanner said. “Because, under normal circumstances, we would be hosting. But when your city hosts a men’s first and second round, you can’t be in that building. They occupy it the entire time, but we’re hoping we’re in that position. We’ll have to work hard to get a venue to go to.”
NCAA rules state that if a host team’s usual facility is unavailable the weekend of the tournament, it can submit a bid to host at an alternate location within 30 miles of campus, provided that the host university bears any extra cost. However, the rules also give the women’s basketball championship committee latitude to make exceptions as deemed necessary.
Tanner said on 107.5 FM that the USC athletics department has spoken to “at least a half-dozen different sites that are possibilities,” but that “some have conflicts.”
“In the end, the NCAA has to grant approval for us to go play in that venue that is not your home court,” Tanner said. “We’ve got some work to do, but we’ll do what we have to and work as hard as we need to, to get in that position.”
One of the main alternatives, Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, is hosting the SEC women’s basketball tournament two weeks before the NCAA tourney, but there are several events already scheduled for the arena, which seats 17,000 on the weekend of March 22, when the first two rounds take place. The same is true for the North Charleston Coliseum (capacity 11,475).
Other in-state options might include the Winthrop Coliseum (capacity 6,100), the Florence Center (7,686) and TD Arena (5,100) in Charleston. Last year at CLA, South Carolina drew crowds of 11,085 and 10,037 in its two games.