COMMENTARY

Gamecocks shouldn't be playing in Albany regional

BY DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 3/21/18

So not only does the University of South Carolina women's basketball team gets to make the long sojourn to Albany, New York, to play in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament regional with top-ranked and undefeated Connecticut, it now has to take on …

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COMMENTARY

Gamecocks shouldn't be playing in Albany regional

South Carolina forward A'ja Wilson, center, celebrates a basket against Virginia guard Dominique Toussaint (4) during the first half of the Gamecocks' second-round victory over the Cavaliers in the NCAA women's basketball tournament on Sunday in Columbia.
South Carolina forward A'ja Wilson, center, celebrates a basket against Virginia guard Dominique Toussaint (4) during the first half of the Gamecocks' second-round victory over the Cavaliers in the NCAA women's basketball tournament on Sunday in Columbia.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted

So not only does the University of South Carolina women's basketball team gets to make the long sojourn to Albany, New York, to play in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament regional with top-ranked and undefeated Connecticut, it now has to take on the home state Cinderella program of University of Buffalo on Saturday before getting a possible shot at the Huskies?

Go figure.

Facing the Bulls isn't a problem; that's the luck of the draw when you play in a tournament as No. 11 seed Buffalo whacked No. 3 Florida State on Monday in Tallahassee. However, the fact the Gamecocks, the defending national champions, are the No. 2 seed in the same region with UConn, undeniably the top women's program in the country on a year-in, year-out basis, had nothing to do with luck -- good or bad. It is more along the lines of someone on the selection committee has a vendetta against the USC program.

Really, Carolina head coach Dawn Staley must have done something horrendous to fall in such disfavor. I'm being facetious, of course, but it really makes no sense as to why South Carolina was seen as the worst of the four No. 2 seeds, thus being placed in the regional with Connecticut.

The complaint over the Gamecocks being placed in the Albany regional is actually two-fold. The fact that there's UConn and then the rest of women's college basketball is the first thing. That is something neither Staley nor her players would ever state and rightfully so. They earned those national championship rings last season and nowhere does it say on the rings "Did not play UConn." The Huskies fell to Mississippi State in the semifinals and USC took MSU down in the title game.

It goes without saying though that every other team would like to avoid facing UConn as far into the tournament as possible. And it seemed that Carolina had done enough to avoid that.,

South Carolina finished second in the Southeastern Conference regular season, snapping its run of consecutive conference crowns at three. However, it won the SEC tournament for the fourth straight season -- the first time that has ever happened -- taking down three ranked teams in Tennessee, Georgia and previously undefeated Mississippi State in the process.

Yet a 26-6 record with two losses to Tennessee without All-American A'Ja Wilson, losses to No. 1 seeds UConn, Notre Dame and Mississippi State and a loss to tourney team Missouri wasn't enough. Since the Gamecocks beat Tennessee so convincingly the one time it had Wilson in the lineup one has to think it could have won the other games with her. That would have left them with a 28-4 record and possibly knocking at the door of a No. 1 seed. To no avail though.

The second part of the complaint revolves around USC being sent to these distant locations which makes it difficult for its huge fan base to follow it. Carolina leads the women's game in attendance and the fans came out in force for the two games in Columbia on Friday and Sunday. There were over 10,000 people at Colonial Life Arena for a 9 p.m. Sunday start in the 66-56 victory over Virginia. Needless to say, USC led in attendance in its two games in one of the 16 opening-round sites.

One has to wonder why USC couldn't have been placed in the Lexington, Kentucky, regional, the closest of the regionals to the Palmetto State. The NCAA wants fans in the seats at those games and USC would have certainly supplied them.

And even if you can't plant them in Lexington, why not Kansas City, Missouri, or Spokane, Washington, the other sites?

What is the problem?