South Carolina will have to travel west and potentially play Stanford on its home floor to earn a trip to the Final Four.
Coach Dawn Staley’s team earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time school in history Monday night. They will play in the Stanford Regional.
The Gamecocks will open up against Cal State Northridge in the first round in Seattle.
Stanford is the second seed and will head to Ames, Iowa to play the first two rounds. Penn State is the three seed and North Carolina the four.
The Gamecocks and Tar Heels played in Myrtle Beach on Dec. 18 and North Carolina came away with a 74-66 victory.
South Carolina (27-4) had won its most games in 34 years and earned its first-ever Southeastern Conference title. Yet, a loss at Tennessee to end the regular season followed by a semifinals exit at the league tournament seemed to damage their chances at a top seed.
But it was the Gamecock players jumping up and hugging one another in celebration when their name popped up atop the Stanford Region.
“You look at what we’re trying to do here at South Carolina, which is win national championships,” Staley said. “I think it does start with getting No. 1 seeds and putting yourself in the same breath as the Notre Dames, the UConns, the Tennessees … I think it’s just a breath of fresh air to have somebody new.”
Staley said she would give her players until today’s practice to enjoy the first-of-its kind moment.
It was South Carolina’s third consecutive NCAA trip under Staley and its 11th overall. For Staley, it’s her ninth NCAA appearance as a coach. The Hall of Famer led Virginia to three Final Fours as one of the game’s best players.
Geno Auriemma and his Connecticut Huskies hope to achieve history by the end of this NCAA Tournament.
The top-seeded Huskies (34-0) are trying for a record ninth NCAA title, which would break a tie with Tennessee for most all-time.
“We really haven’t talked, I bet hardly at all, about this national championship or what number it is or any of that,” Auriemma said.
Standing in the way of undefeated Connecticut’s run could be Notre Dame.
The Irish were also unbeaten this season and earned the top seed in their own region. It’s only the second time that two teams entered the tournament undefeated.
Despite not playing this season, the former Big East rivals know plenty about each other having met 12 times over the previous three seasons. The unbeaten wouldn’t meet until the national championship game on April 8 in Nashville. Notre Dame isn’t intimidated by Connecticut; the Irish have won seven of the past nine meetings with the Huskies.
Tennessee also earned a No. 1 seed. It’s the 22nd time that the Lady Vols have earned a top spot.
Georgia (20-11) on Monday night earned its 31st NCAA Tournament bid.
The Bulldogs were awarded the No. 8 seed in the Lincoln Region and will play their first-round game against ninth-seeded St. Joseph’s (22-9) in Storrs, Conn. That means they will likely meet UConn in the second round should they advance.
“Who wouldn’t want to get a crack at them?” Georgia guard Khallidah Miller of facing the Huskies. “They’re a really good team, a 1 seed and they’re going be playing at home. There’s nothing like playing against a team in their place and being able to pull out a win”
Georgia Tech earned its seventh at-large berth in the past eight seasons.
The Yellow Jackets received a No. 10 seed and will play seventh-seeded Louisiana State in the first round in Baton Rouge, La. at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.