SOUTH CAROLINA MUST FIND A WAY TO GET TOUGHER DOWN THE STRETCH …
There’s no question fifth-year University of South Carolina head basketball coach Frank Martin has the school’s mens hoops program moving in the right direction.
Now they just need to learn how to finish …
Martin’s Gamecocks (22-10, 12-6 SEC) have eclipsed the twenty-win mark in each of the past two seasons – an impressive feat when you consider the Miami, Florida native inherited a program in utter shambles back in 2012.
Still, late season swoons are proving costly. Over the last two seasons, South Carolina is 41-8 in games played prior to February 13 – good for an impressive .836 winning percentage. In games played on that date or later, though, the Gamecocks are 6-11 – a winning percentage of just .352.
Martin’s team has also been bounced from the SEC tournament in its opening game two years running.
That’s not good … and last year’s early exit cost them dearly with the NCAA selection committee. Gamecock fans are hoping that won’t happen again this year (and given South Carolina’s improved strength of schedule compared to a year ago, it shouldn’t).
After posting an anemic 28-38 mark during his first two seasons in Columbia, S.C. (including a catastrophic 9-27 conference mark), Martin’s third squad went 17-16. Last year’s squad made a real breakthrough – but it wasn’t quite enough to break into the NCAA tournament.
South Carolina hasn’t been to the “Big Dance” since 2004. In fact, the program has managed just four NCAA appearances over the last 42 years – and hasn’t won a tournament game since 1973.
For those of you keeping score at home, South Carolina’s last NCAA victory took place on March 17, 1973. The Gamecocks – then coached by the legendary Frank McGuire – defeated Southwestern Louisiana by a score of 90-85 to win third place in the Midwest Regional.
Wait … third place?
That’s right … South Carolina’s last NCAA victory was in a consolation game, a practice that was scrapped in 1975 (although consolation games continued to be played at the Final Four until 1981). The Gamecocks’ last real NCAA tournament victory took place on March 10, 1973, when they defeated Texas Tech by a score of 78-70 in the Midwest Regional quarterfinals.
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