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Dawn Staley: Why early-season upsets are good for women’s basketball

Dawn Staley's South Carolina Gamecocks are undefeated through four games, but plenty of upsets have rocked women's college basketball to start the season. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

Dawn Staley has been excited to see early-season upsets in women’s college basketball.

While her Gamecocks are a perfect 4-0, several of their top competitors already have been toppled. Preseason No. 1 LSU lost to Colorado to start the season, and preseason No. 2 UConn lost to NC State. And then-No. 2 Iowa was upset by Kansas State, almost one year after the Wildcats upset a top-5 Iowa team.

Meanwhile, Princeton nearly upset No. 3 UCLA, and Duke pushed then-No. 6 Stanford to overtime.

All of these are signs of growing parity in the women’s game, which Staley called “good for the sport.”

“I think women’s basketball is good,” she said after South Carolina’s 78-38 win over South Dakota State on Monday. “We could talk about parity, but we’re good. Our sport is at a really good place where anybody feels like they could beat anybody. It’s come to pass and I think that helps everybody else when you see it.”

While the Gamecocks have not yet been a victim, the upsets give them reason for better preparation, Staley said. After all, a team never knows if they could be next.

“When you see it, you prepare a little bit better,” she said. “You’ve got examples of what it could look like for you if you lose a basketball game. More so than just coaching your team up, they see it, they feel it. It is a real thing out there when you see teams get upset.”

And the upsets have come as the sport has reached new heights of popularity. With more eyes on the game than ever before, sometimes those upsets can feel monumental. But if you ask Staley, she’s seen this changing of the tides coming.

Earlier this month, Staley discussed the the rise in the sport’s popularity with Vanity Fair.

“Women’s basketball is bursting at the seams,” Staley said. “It is a long time coming.”

And that could mean a greater financial return, too. Broadcast rights for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament are set to be negotiated soon, and the deal could be worth more than $100 million.

“We need somebody to bet on us,” Staley said, “and I know that they’ll get a return on their investment.”