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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Staley has built a well-oiled winning machine

by Wally Hall | March 8, 2023 at 3:59 a.m.

A few random thoughts before March becomes madness.

The South Carolina women's basketball team is so good, the Gamecocks should be getting votes in the men's polls.

OK, a bit of a stretch, but they are riding a 38-game winning streak and their past three losses -- and this goes back to the semifinals of the 2021 NCAA Tournament -- have been by a total of four points.

Last season they were 32-2, and the only losses were upsets at Missouri and by Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship game.

They opened the season No. 1 and have remained there and are getting all 28 Associated Press voters' No. 1 vote.

It took only a few minutes of watching them dispatch Tennessee for the SEC Tournament championship last Sunday to see they have replaced UConn as the most dominant female team in the country.

Incidentally, that is who they beat for the national championship last season and it wasn't as close as the 64-49 score.

Head coach Dawn Staley is in her 15th season. Her overall record at South Carolina is 398-105 and her SEC record is 183-55.

However, it took the former WNBA star three seasons to get the Gamecocks kickstarted and in the past 12 seasons she is 366-57 overall and 168-26 in SEC play.

She has two national championships, two other Final Four appearances and has never lost a first-round NCAA Tournament game.

South Carolina is a well-oiled, well-coached team that plays fundamental basketball and is fun to watch.

. . .

While nothing is set in stone, other than Houston and Alabama will be No. 1 seeds when the NCAA Tournament men's field is announced Sunday, there is a reason to believe Arkansas will make the field.

The Razorbacks have lost three consecutive games, but all were against ranked teams that will be part of March Madness.

They are 19-11 overall and 8-10 in SEC play.

However, last year Michigan made the field with a 17-14 overall record. The Wolverines were a No. 11 seed but beat Colorado State and Tennessee to advance to the Sweet 16, where they lost to Villanova, who made the Final Four.

Iowa State was 20-12 last season and made the field as a No. 11 seed, and the Cyclones advanced to the Sweet 16.

That type of history is well-known to the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

What Arkansas or Mississippi State don't need is to lose their first game and Vanderbilt win the SEC Tournament.

. . .

Here's a prediction: before a national champion is crowned on April 3, Chris Beard will be a head coach again.

It might even be at Texas Tech, where he had success before leaving for Texas, or Ole Miss, which hasn't really been relevant in basketball for a long time.

All charges about domestic violence against Beard were dropped, so he has no legal shadow. He and his girlfriend, Randi Trew, are still together and she said whatever the problem was the night Beard was arrested was instigated by her.

Beard spent one season at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and went 30-5, including a win over Purdue in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

He then spent five seasons at Texas Tech and led the Red Raiders to the Final Four before taking the job at his alma mater, Texas.

He was 29-13 at UT before he was fired after being charged with domestic violence, which was recanted by Trew.

Other than that, there has been no hint of anything illegal in Beard's past.

Most likely the school that hires him will put him on probation and might request some counseling, which is not unreasonable.

In the next 26 days, Beard will be a head coach.

Print Headline: Staley has built a well-oiled winning machine


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