Top spot familiar for South Carolina

South Carolina's Bree Hall (23) goes to the basket as Kentucky's Saniah Tyler (2) watches during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Lexington, Ky. South Carolina won 103-55. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
South Carolina's Bree Hall (23) goes to the basket as Kentucky's Saniah Tyler (2) watches during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Lexington, Ky. South Carolina won 103-55. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Coach Dawn Staley has South Carolina in a familiar place with a week left in the regular season.

For the second straight year the No. 1 Gamecocks haven't lost a game heading into March -- a feat they hadn't accomplished before last season. Even with all five starters from last year's Final Four run gone, the Gamecocks sit at 27-0 with two games left.

They visit Arkansas on Thursday before hosting Tennessee on Sunday. The Gamecocks clinched their third consecutive outright SEC regular-season championship and eighth in 11 years with Sunday's win over Kentucky.

"We haven't lost a game and our players are thinking this is the way it is. The competition gets better and better as we approach the postseason," Staley said after beating Kentucky. "We want to give our players their flowers but want them to know there's work to do."

Staley has been impressed with her players and how they have rallied even when they have been down in games.

"They find a way to win basketball games," she said. "That's the sign of a really good team. I'm not gonna say that we're not a good basketball team. We're a really good basketball team when we are playing like we played today."

It's been a balanced effort for the Gamecocks, who have seven players averaging 8.5 points or more this season.

South Carolina won't have to go far for the SEC Tournament again because it's played in Greenville. The Gamecocks are poised for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They will have the first two games at home and then most likely will travel to Albany, N.Y., for the regional, meaning they won't have to leave the Eastern time zone. The other regional is out in Portland, Ore.

While the Gamecocks have wrapped up the SEC already, there are a bunch of other big games this week.

REGULAR-SEASON HOME FINALE?

A matchup Sunday against No. 2 Ohio State could be sixth-ranked Iowa star Caitlin Clark's final regular-season game at home. The NCAA's all-time scoring leader has a year of eligibility left if she wants it. She hasn't announced whether she'll come back for a fifth year or enter the WNBA Draft, where she is the presumed No. 1 pick.

Clark potentially will have two more games at home in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament because the top 16 teams host those games.

BIG 12 TITLE

No. 3 Texas visits 20th-ranked Oklahoma on Wednesday with first place in the Big 12 Conference on the line. The Sooners have a one-game lead over the Longhorns. Oklahoma won the first meeting by four points last month. If Texas wins and the two teams end up tied in the standings -- they each have one game left after Wednesday -- they'd share the regular-season crown.

  photo  South Carolina head coach head coach Dawn Staley, center, talks with her staff during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
 
 

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