When the NCAA Women's selection committee convenes Monday night, a likely nine SEC teams will be selected to compete in the 64-team field. A pool of 14 Southeastern Conference teams out of 344 qualifying schools will likely make up 14% of your women's bracket.
The South Carolina Gamecocks are one of those 14, and they've beaten all the rest to rise to the top of the SEC.
Over the course of the past four seasons, Dawn Staley, with help from the likes of Tiffany Mitchell, A'ja Wilson, Aleighsa Welch, Tina Roy, Alaina Coates, Khadijah Sessions and Asia Dozier, has erected the Gamecocks women's basketball program to the top of the nation's deepest and toughest conference.
Over the past three seasons, Dawn Staley and her women have only lost three conference games. Over the past two, they've collected four titles (two regular season, two tournament championships).
Throughout this year, the Gamecocks have inflated their SEC dominance to a perfect 19-0 2016 conference season. Now, they sit on top of the throne, with the likes of Volunteers, Aggies, Wildcats, Gators, Bulldogs, Tigers and the rest gazing at the queens above.
2015 set the standard of women's basketball in Columbia. A conference championship and Final Four appearance proved the Gamecocks could compete with the nation's toughest and more storied programs while creating an expectation for one of the nation's most supportive fanbases.
Going into 2016, Staley and her women aimed to raise the bar even higher. They targeted not only prior accomplishments, but a new plateau. The goal in 2016: win the National Championship.
After an early February defeat to the nation's standard of dominance, the UConn Huskies, South Carolina learned they're not there yet. While they're ready to compete, they haven't proved they belong with the nation's best. The Gamecocks have two obstacles in their way of national title: the country's number one and number two teams in UConn and Notre Dame.
The Gamecocks lost to Notre Dame in last year's national semi-final and are 0-2 vs. UConn the past two seasons. But Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks don't need a reminder.
While a perfect conference season and season-long stint in the top three feels good now, it won't mean much if they aren't the last one standing as the confetti falls in Indianapolis in April.