Dawn Staley’s immediate reaction to her South Carolina women’s basketball team being a No. 1 seed in the Stockton, Calif., region this year was disappointment.
It was an understandable reaction, given the Gamecocks’ impressive resume that wasn’t enough to find geographical favor in the eyes of the selection committee.
ESPN’s Charlie Creme agreed with Staley, calling it a “bad message” that the Gamecocks are being sent to a far-flung regional for the third time in the past four season.
“I get it,” wrote Creme. “Baylor can get to Oklahoma City in a bus. South Carolina and its fans have to fly to either Oklahoma or California. That’s the rationale, but it’s just not right. If this were the first year the Gamecocks were facing extensive travel, it would be more understandable. It isn’t.”
South Carolina has been a No. 1 seed in four straight seasons, but was sent to Sioux Falls, S.D., last year and Stanford, Calif., three years ago.
After Monday night’s selection show, Staley expressed her frustration that the Gamecocks were once again put in a position to have to travel across multiple time zones should they advance out of Friday and Sunday’s first- and second-round games.
She felt it was South Carolina’s turn to receive geographical preference for their resume this season, which it didn’t despite a resume that Creme noted is better than Baylor’s.
“South Carolina had more RPI top-50 wins than Baylor (13 to 12), more top-25 wins (10-9), a better RPI and a better strength of schedule, plus it played in a better conference and won its regular-season and tournament titles (Baylor did not win the Big 12 tournament),” wrote Creme. “That is why South Carolina is No. 3 on the overall board and Baylor is No. 4 — but that didn’t matter in terms of travel here. If student-athlete experience remains a consideration, what about the South Carolina student-athlete experience? For the third year in a row, senior Alaina Coates could be playing in her third regional as far from campus as possible.”
The Gamecocks open tournament play at 5 p.m. Friday against UNC-Asheville at Colonial Life Arena.