South Carolina Basketball: Before NCAA Tournament begins, let's put the 2023-2024 season in historical perspective

South Carolina basketball has had a historic season before the Madness of March even tips off.
South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris
South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris / Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina basketball fans can't wait to watch their favorite team in March Madness. It has been too long since the Gamecocks have been in the NCAA Tournament (the 2016-2017 Final Four run and then 2003-2004 season prior to that), and the long-suffering fans in garnet and black have dreamed of being able to root for their men's program deep into March like they do their women's team.

However, it is important for Gamecock fans to remember that this season wasn't even supposed to happen.

South Carolina was picked dead last in the preseason SEC polls. And while most who paid close attention to the moves Lamont Paris made in recruiting and in the transfer portal knew that last wasn't a good prediction, the majority of those who were bullish on USC had them finishing a little above .500 and maybe making their way into the NIT.

What Coach Paris and his team have accomplished is special. It has also been historic.

The 26-7 Gamecocks have tied the South Carolina basketball record for single-season wins (set during that Final Four campaign). They broke the regular-season wins record (beating the marks from the 1969-1970 season and the 2015-2016 team that both somehow were left out of the NCAA Tournament). They also won the 2nd-most SEC games they've ever won (trailing only the 1996-1997 SEC Champions that went 15-1 in the league).

This will be just the program's 10th trip to the NCAA Tournament and just the team's 6th time in the Big Dance since the tournament grew larger than 16 teams in 1975. Their peak at 11th in the AP poll is the highest in over 25 years, and the Gamecocks have secured a spot in the final rankings for the first time since the 1997-1998 season.

Frankly, the fact that Lamont Paris got the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament at all in year 2 is a major achievement, and no matter what happens this March (and potentially April), South Carolina basketball fans should enjoy the ride.

It sure would be nice if that ride was a long one, though.

Here is a look at the entire NCAA Tournament bracket.

Next. South Carolina Basketball: Lamont Paris named semifinalist for Naismith National Coach of the Year. South Carolina Basketball: Lamont Paris named semifinalist for Naismith National Coach of the Year. dark