SOUTH CAROLINA CHOSEN FOR NCAA MENS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT …
Despite another slow finish, the University of South Carolina mens basketball team is going dancing … finally.
For the first time in thirteen years, the Gamecocks have been selected to participate in the NCAA mens basketball tournament.
The program’s next big challenge? Winning an NCAA game … something it hasn’t done in forty-four years.
Head coach Frank Martin’s squad – which narrowly missed the “Big Dance” a year ago – drew the No. 7 seed in the tournament’s East Regional. That means they will open play in their home state – at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
That’s where South Carolina (22-10) will tipoff this coming Friday evening against tenth-seeded Marquette (19-12). The Golden Eagles are coached by former Duke point guard Steve Wojciechowski – who won a pair of national championships at his alma mater as an assistant coach under the legendary Mike Krzyzewski.
Wojciechowski’s squad posted a 10-8 conference mark in his third season at the helm – good for third in the Big East. That record included a 74-72 upset of defending national champion (and overall No. 1 seed) Villanova on January 24.
South Carolina? As we noted earlier this week Martin’s team is limping into the tournament – dropping six of its last nine games.
Thickening the plot? The winner of the South-Carolina Marquette game would likely go up against Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils – who have drawn the No. 2 seed in the East Regional.
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 occurred in a consolation game, a practice that was scrapped in 1975 (although consolation games continued to be played at the Final Four level 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.
South Carolina was heavily favored to win tournament games in 1997 and 1998, but the Gamecocks – then coached by Eddie Fogler – were bounced as a No. 2 seed by Coppin State and as a No. 3 seed by Richmond. In 2004, seventh-seeded Memphis – then coached by John Calipari – defeated tenth-seeded South Carolina 59-43 in a Midwest Regional game played in Kansas City, Missouri.
Banner via Travis Bell Photography