The AP Poll for NCAA men’s college basketball is an ever-changing cycle of highly talented teams, but the women’s poll is a different story. Aliyah Boston and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks have held down the top spot for 35 consecutive weeks. The Gamecocks have reigned as unanimous number one for a majority of that time, as another highly ranked team was able to snag one first place vote this past week.
Much of their success can be attributed to head coach Dawn Staley and star player Aliyah Boston. Boston, a historic double-double machine, was crucial in the team’s overtime win against Ole Miss this past week.
With senior night coming up on Feb. 26, the Gamecocks have plenty of players to celebrate. The team will honor its seven seniors — Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, Brea Beal, Laeticia Amihere, Olivia Thompson, Victaria Saxton and Kierra Fletcher. This home matchup against Georgia will be the team’s second sellout of the season, the first being the early February game against LSU.
Beating LSU on Feb. 12 with a final score of 88-64 proved that South Carolina is every bit the same high powered team that won the National Championship a year ago. Being able to return starters such as Boston and Beal are a huge part of the reason the Gamecocks are still on top. LSU was the number three team in the country at the time and were seen as a great matchup for the Gamecocks. Angel Reese is LSU’s top player, but Reese and her teammates were no match for South Carolina’s defense, trailing 13-2 less than four minutes into the game.
There are a few different storylines within this Gamecocks team, all of which are doing numbers for women’s basketball, but none more than head coach Dawn Staley. With last year’s National Championship win, Coach Staley became the first black head coach - male or female - to win multiple NCAA championship titles, with this being her second as head coach. While there have been a number of incredible athletes who have played women’s basketball at the University of South Carolina, Coach Staley reigns supreme as the person who has had the biggest impact on this program.
Year after year, fans of the game watch Coach Staley put together great teams and great runs during both the regular season and during March Madness. Her intense personality and coaching style attracts fans and ultra-talented players, making South Carolina the top program in women’s college basketball.
With teams like Indiana, Stanford, UConn and LSU right behind them, Coach Staley and the Gamecocks will have to continue to play with their usual high intensity to close out the regular season and carry them into March. There are plenty of heavy hitters in women’s college basketball that would love to have the chance to take down the top team in the country, which is nothing new for this squad, who seemingly always get their opponents’ best shot. No matter what happens during the remainder of the regular season, the Gamecocks have already proven that they’re a force to be reckoned with when March comes around.