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The final coaches poll has spoken: Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are No. 1

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The final coaches poll has spoken: Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are No. 1

March 11, 2020

South Carolina women’s basketball will end the 2019-20 season as the No. 1 team in the country in the eyes of the USA Today coaches poll.

The final top 25 rankings were released Monday after the NCAA tournament was canceled in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks were the clear No. 1, with 26 of 32 first-place votes from a panel of head coaches across the country.

South Carolina finished the year at 32-1 for the nation’s best win percentage, including a perfect 19-0 mark in SEC regular season and tournament play. The Gamecocks’ only loss on the year was in November to Indiana, who finished No. 22 in the final poll, and they won their last 26 games, sweeping the conference regular season and tournament titles.

Elsewhere in the poll, the Gamecocks defeated No. 3 Baylor, No. 4 UConn, No. 5 Maryland, No. 10 Mississippi State (twice), No. 11 South Dakota, No. 18 Kentucky (twice), No. 21 Texas A&M and No. 25 Arkansas (three times).

This marks the fifth consecutive week South Carolina has topped the coaches poll, and the 26 first-place votes are the Gamecocks’ most in that stretch.

USC was widely expected to be the No. 1 overall seed in March Madness and likely would have been favored to reach the program’s third Final Four and compete for its second national title.

But with growing concern about COVID-19, the NCAA canceled all winter and spring championships last Thursday. The NCAA has given no indication that it will crown or recognize a national champion, but South Carolina could try to claim a title based off the No. 1 ranking. The Associated Press is scheduled to release its final poll of the year on Tuesday.

Athletics Director Ray Tanner said Friday it was “too early” to discuss whether USC would claim a title, saying his focus at the moment has been on the spread of the virus.

“I will add that we were on quite a run and, if I’m not mistaken, we were 32-1, we were ranked number one in both the polls, and we won a regular season title and the tournament championship. So in my mind, we’re number one,” Tanner added.

Speaking on ESPN shortly after the NCAA’s cancellation, coach Dawn Staley didn’t go so far as to say the Gamecocks would proclaim themselves champions, but did indicate she thought they deserved to be if anyone is recognized.

 

“I’m probably gonna stir up some folks — we ended the season as the No. 1 team in the country with the best record in the country, the only team that won their regular season and conference tournament undefeated,” Staley said. “If they’re gonna pass out a national championship trophy, we got our hands out at South Carolina.”

FINAL USA TODAY COACHES POLL

1. South Carolina (26)

2. Oregon (6)

3. Baylor

4. UConn

5. Maryland

6. Stanford

7. Louisville

8. N.C. State

9. UCLA

10. Mississippi State

11. South Dakota

12. Arizona

13. Gonzaga

14. DePaul

15. Northwestern

16. Oregon State

17. Princeton

18. Kentucky

19. Missouri State

20. Florida State

21. Texas A&M

22. Indiana

23. Iowa

24. Florida Gulf Coast

25. Arkansas

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