COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Dawn Staley's Gamecocks are starting out the season ranked higher than ever before.
South Carolina has been ranked second in the Associated Press preseason poll. It's the best ranking since Jan. 3, 1982.
The Gamecocks haven't ever been ranked this high in the preseason.
Expectations are high for Dawn Staley's team, which advanced to the Sweet 16 last season and won its first SEC title. The team returns SEC player of the year Tiffany Mitchell and league freshman of the year in Alaina Coates as well as a talented freshman class.
"It's unchartered waters for us," Staley said. "It means that our program has done something over the course of the past few years to get ranked as high as we are. It brings in a whole lot of pressure, some anticipated, some not. For us, we knew coming up people would have high expectations for ourselves."
Connecticut received all 35 votes Thursday marking the 10th time that the Huskies are the top team in the preseason. Six of those years UConn went on to win the national championship.
Notre Dame is third. The Irish were unbeaten last season until losing to the Huskies in the national championship game
Tennessee is fourth and Texas A&M rounds out the first five teams. It's the Aggies best preseason ranking in school history.
Stanford, Duke, Baylor, Texas and Maryland finish off the first 10.
Kentucky is 11th followed by Louisville, North Carolina, Michigan State and California. Nebraska, West Virginia, DePaul, Iowa and Oregon State are next.
Oklahoma State, Dayton, UCLA, Rutgers and Syracuse round out the poll. The ACC and Big Ten lead the way with five teams in the poll. The Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC each have four. The Longhorns were one of seven teams not ranked at the end of last season. The others are Iowa, Oregon State, Dayton, UCLA, Rutgers and Syracuse.
The Gamecocks host Coker in an exhibition game on Nov. 2, at 3 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena. Admission is free. South Carolina's regular-season opener is slated for Nov. 15, against Southern Cal. Tipoff time for that game will be announced next week following the announcement of South Carolina's football game time.
Season tickets are available for $50 each for a reserved seat or a Family Four-Pack of four general admission tickets for $100. Visit www.GameocksOnline.com/tickets or call 1-800-4SC-FANS to purchase season tickets.