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South Carolina women’s basketball 2017-18 SEC schedule released; three matchups we’re watching

Mark those calendars now.

Mississippi State v South Carolina Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Football season is just around the corner, but that doesn’t mean that college basketball news takes time off. The SEC women’s basketball schedule for the upcoming season is out (the men release theirs on Thursday) and features the regular slate of eight home and away games for South Carolina. Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky are the three teams the Gamecocks will play both at Colonial Life Arena and on the road this year.

The conference schedule for the national champions begins on New Year’s Eve Day against Texas A&M, but while there are several we could choose from (six opponents played in the NCAA Tournament last year), here’s three matchups we’re keeping an eye on.

#3: Tennessee (home January 14; away February 25)

The Gamecocks’ loss to the Lady Vols on January 30 came on an absolutely ridiculous call. With just seconds remaining, Ty Harris was called for what was ruled to be a foul on Jamie Nared, but after a replay, there was barely an argument to be made for the infraction in the first place. Nared made both as Tennessee escaped Columbia with a 74-72 victory. For what it’s worth, the Gamecocks only ended up losing two more games after that, at UConn and at Mizzou, en route to their first title. Leading scorer Diamond DeShields left Knoxville at the end of the season - thanks in part to both her desire to turn pro and the eventual transfer of friend Te’a Cooper (stemming from an incident between her and now-ex teammate Nared) to South Carolina - but a couple of returnees in the aforementioned Nared and Mercedes Russell, along with a pair of Top 10 signings in Evina Westbook and Anastasia Hayes, should make things interesting at Rocky Top.

#2: Kentucky (away January 21; home February 18)

Alexis Jennings plays against her former team for the first time after sitting out last year for the Gamecocks due to NCAA regulation. The Wildcats are always in the hunt for an SEC title, and the same will ring true this year even with senior duo Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps graduated and playing in the WNBA (Akhator with Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray in Dallas). Things will fall to Maci Morris and Taylor Murray to carry the bulk of the scoring, but Matthew Mitchell will have newly-eligible transfer Ogechi Anyagaligbo, JUCO signee Amanda Paschal and espnW top 100 palyer KeKe McKinney at his disposal this season as well. (February 18’s game will be a homecoming for Cats freshman Kameron Roach, a Lower Richland product).

#1: Mississippi State, February 5

Last year around this time, if you were to tell me that South Carolina and Mississippi State would be playing for the national title, I’d have laughed or thought you were trolling. Staley and her crew head to Starkvegas in what is definitely the most anticipated matchup on the SEC’s league slate thist season. Vic Schaefer’s squad won’t be lacking for upperclassman leadership - semifinal game hero Morgan William, Victoria Vivians, Schaefer’s daughter Blair, and Roshunda Johnson headline a senior-laden group that probably won’t be picked to replicate its magic from last year but should hold its own in the conference and on the national stage.