COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina is the preseason No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll for the first time in school history.
The Gamecocks had been second twice in the preseason poll, in 2014 and 2015, and received 29 of the 30 first-place votes from a national media panel.
South Carolina was followed by Stanford, which received the other first-place vote. It’s the Cardinal’s highest ranking in the preseason since the 2009 season when the team also was second. UConn, Baylor and Louisville were third, fourth and fifth.
The Gamecocks were the number one team in America at the end of last season and were the favorite to win the national title before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season before the postseason began.
Coach Dawn Staley led her team to a 32-1 record, SEC regular-season and tournament titles, and 10 weeks at No. 1 in the AP Poll.
The Gamecocks finished the season at No. 1 in the RPI thanks to their dominance of the nation's fifth-strongest schedule, which included eight wins over RPI top-25 teams and another eight against RPI top-50 squads. South Carolina's 13 wins over nationally ranked opponents were more than any other team in the country this season and matched the 2015-16 team for the most in program history.
The Gamecock offense scored a school-record 82.0 points per game to rank sixth in the nation while no individual Gamecock averaged more than 13.1 points. South Carolina's bench added 26.6 points per game of that average as those six Gamecocks thrived in their roles. Defensively, South Carolina was fourth in the country in allowing opponents to shoot just 33.3 percent from the field, and their 30.1 defensive rebounds per game were 12th-best in the country.
Staley's Gamecocks have won five SEC regular-season titles in the last seven seasons and five of the last six SEC Tournament crowns. Her SEC regular-season winning percent of .726 is second only to Tennessee's Pat Summitt in league history, and her 11.5 SEC victories per season are the most of any head coach all-time. Staley's 305 wins at South Carolina are the most by a Gamecock basketball coach - men's or women's. She is a four-time SEC Coach of the Year, including becoming the first in league history to win the title three straight seasons.