Heading West: UNCA women to face No. 1 seed Gamecocks in Stockton Regional

Heading West: UNCA to face No. 1 seed Gamecocks in Stockton Regional

This is one trip West that South Carolina coach Dawn Staley believes her top-seeded Gamecocks should not have to make.

South Carolina earned its fourth straight No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on Monday night, topping the regional in Stockton, California. Staley thinks her four-time defending Southeastern Conference champions should've been located closer to home instead of three time zones away.

"I don't know what more we can do," Staley said shortly after the brackets were announced.

The Gamecocks (27-4) open play Friday against 16th-seeded UNC Asheville (19-14), the Big South Conference Tournament champion.

It's the second time in a row that top-seeded South Carolina was sent out of its comfy Eastern time zone. Last year, it was Syracuse who ended South Carolina's run in the Sweet 16 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Gamecocks also lost in the round of 16 to North Carolina in 2014, playing at Stanford.

South Carolina would have preferred to land in the Lexington Regional in place of top seed Notre Dame. The Gamecocks even thought Baylor's loss in the Big 12 Tournament might open the spot in Oklahoma City over that No. 1 seed. Instead, it was the latest Western swing for South Carolina.

Staley said she's talked with members of the selection committee during the offseason to find out why her team that led the country in attendance the past three years is sent so far from home. "They give me what took place in the room," she said. "I'm looking forward to those conversations."

The Gamecock players are looking forward to the tournament no matter where they play. Two-time SEC player of the year A'ja Wilson thinks she might just put her arm around her coach to calm her down. "Just breath, coach," Wilson joked.

The only time the four-time Southeastern Conference champions advanced to the Final Four was when they headed up a regional in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 2015.

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