Why the underdog Gamecocks have just as good of a shot as any team left standing in the NCAA Tournament.
Well, Gamecock fans, it’s time.
A moment none of us could have predicted, but haven’t stopped thinking about since Sunday’s win against Florida.
A program that has not seen success in over 40 years is on college basketball’s biggest stage, with a chance to prove themselves.
The nation sees a team that has pulled off a run of miracle upsets. We see a team with the best defense in the country, the best two way player in the country, and one of the nation’s best coaches.
There are pages of statistical categories that could be looked at to predict this game and most of them favor the Gonzaga Bulldogs. However, the main factor that has led the Gamecocks on this run cannot be measured by a statistic. This South Carolina basketball team has played to the final whistle better than any other team in the country.
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The Gamecocks are the only team in the Final Four to have trailed at the half in at least three of their four games in this tournament. When the Gamecocks trailed 10th seeded Marquette at the half in the opening round, only one group of people thought they would be where they are now. And that group is everybody in the South Carolina locker room. This team never doubted for a second if they were good enough to beat Duke, Baylor, or Florida.
In games against Duke and Florida where they struggled early, they came out composed in the second half. They didn’t jack up shots hoping to make a miracle come back. They locked in and played their game.
That’s why South Carolina basketball is not your typical Cinderella. They haven’t had any miracle buzzer beaters. They haven’t gotten any lucky breaks. All they’ve done is play the most dominant defense in the tournament. South Carolina has had the MVP of the tournament so far in Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier is playing his best basketball of the season. The ‘Cocks have also gotten huge contributions from Rakym Felder and Chris Silva. Maik Kotsar broke out against Florida in the Elite Eight.
The real key to this run has been the leadership of Frank Martin. This team showed flashes of being able to play with the best in the country all season. But now all their pieces are clicking at the right time, and that comes down to the coaching. Martin has outcoached all of his counterparts, including Duke’s Coach K. Martin has finally brought all of his talent together and put them in positions to win.
Martin is famous for his fiery temper, but in the tournament he has reinforced to his team that they should just enjoy this experience. This has been clear in the looseness the Gamecocks have played with all March. They are playing to win games in tough situations, not tightening up and worrying about making mistakes.
So as the Gamecocks go into the biggest game in South Carolina basketball history, there are no grand secrets or statistics that will make the difference against Gonzaga. The Zags are a great team. But so are the ‘Cocks. If South Carolina plays their game they will have a chance to win down the stretch.
They’re high energy, yet composed. Scrappy, but smart. They are not your average Cinderella.
They are the Fighting Gamecocks of South Carolina