A home away from home for Dawn Staley’s group.
Earlier this week, the NCAA women’s basketball committee had its first of two Top 16 reveals. The committee had Mississippi State, Oregon, Baylor, and Louisville all as No. 1 seeds at the four potential regional assignment locations: Albany, Portland, Greensboro and Chicago.
For the first and second rounds, games are held on non-predetermined campus sites. For South Carolina, who could very well earn the right to host, the situation wasn’t ideal at the start. Because Colonial Life Arena, USC’s home venue, will host the NCAA men’s tournament on the same weekend, they were forced to explore other options. Per NCAA rules, any potential host site further than 30 miles away from campus requires the university to apply for a waiver.
The Gamecocks did just that—and received the good news back Thursday that their waiver was approved by the NCAA. Should the Gamecocks host, games will be played at Halton Arena on the campus of UNC-Charlotte. It’s a 9,000+ seat arena that is also home to the Charlotte 49ers.
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Situated roughly 102 miles north of Columbia, it sounds like a legitimate Plan B for an always-hungry and loyal Gamecock fan base. The last two times South Carolina hosted, they averaged almost 10,000 fans and led all first-round host sites in attendance in 2018.
South Carolina’s athletic director, Ray Tanner, believes that played a role in the approval process. Although it was never said explicitly, he’s probably right.
“I think the fact that coach Staley and her program, what they’ve done consistently for a long time now, and the attendance leading the country, from that standpoint, what we’ve done in NCAA play, I think that all factored in. They didn’t tell me that, but I would assume that this is great for women’s basketball.”
For Dawn Staley, she’s just “ready to play wherever.”
Other options were North Charleston Coliseum and Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, but both were already booked up that weekend. Had the waiver not been approved, the host site could have been as far away as East Lansing or Piscataway, New Jersey.
Although not ideal, I would expect South Carolina to still have a great showing of fans in Charlotte, providing the type of atmosphere you want and need to kick off the tournament.