Potent South Carolina is No. 1 overall seed in expanded NCAA tournament field

South Carolina's Zia Cooke, Aliyah Boston and Destanni Henderson cheer from the bench during a win over Alabama
South Carolina guard Zia Cooke (1) Aliyah Boston, left, and Destanni Henderson, right, enjoy a big lead over Alabama on Feb. 3.
(Sean Rayford / Associated Press)

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has molded the Gamecocks into the team to beat in the women’s NCAA tournament.

The Gamecocks earned the No. 1 overall seed and will open play against the winner of Howard versus Incarnate Word in Columbia, S.C. The teams are in the Greensboro Region.

Louisville, Stanford and North Carolina State earned the remaining No. 1 seeds. Elsewhere, No. 2 seeds Baylor, Texas, Connecticut and Iowa are all capable of challenging for a championship.

Iowa notably is the No. 2 seed in the Greensboro Region, setting up a potential matchup between the Gamecocks’ Aliyah Boston, a player of the year candidate, and the Hawkeyes’ Caitlin Clark, who has gone viral for her long-range shooting skills.


The USC women’s basketball team struggled under first-year coach Lindsay Gottlieb, but the Trojans are making progress in rejuvenating the program.

The NCAA moved the women’s selection show to Sunday and is extending March Madness branding to the women’s games in an effort to address inequality highlighted during last year’s tournament. The field also has been expanded to 68 teams for the first time.

While there was extensive support for men’s teams playing in a bubble in Indianapolis, Sedona Prince was among the players who called out meager weight rooms and other sub-par conditions in the women’s basketball San Antonio bubble.

The first sign of change unfolded Sunday during a selection show airing two hours after the men’s show with a bigger bracket.

Los Angeles area teams, however, didn’t benefit from the expansion, with UCLA and USC both missing the field.

Jaelynn Penn and Ilmar’l Thomas scored 18 points but it wasn’t enough in UCLA’s 63-60 loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament.

The Bruins were among the last four teams out.

First- and second-round women’s NCAA games will be played Friday, March 18, through Monday, March 21, at top-16 seeds. Regionals are Friday, March 25, through Monday, March 28, in Connecticut, North Carolina, Washington and Kansas. The Sweet 16 will be played March 25-26, followed by the Elite Eight from March 27-28.

The Women’s Final Four is at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. PDT on Friday, April 1, on ESPN, and the national championship game is at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 3, on ESPN at the Target Center in Minneapolis.