Is South Carolina's Final Four run the most surprising in Power 5 history?
Until South Carolina’s improbable Final Four run, the Gamecocks’ crowning achievements might have been Ray Tanner’s back-to-back College World Series titles, or Steve Spurrier’s run of three consecutive 11-2 football seasons.
Yet not only has Frank Martin’s squad made history for the Gamecocks, who previously hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973 when they beat Southwestern Louisiana, it’s made a splash not seen across the country in years.
In fact, the Gamecocks had first-round exits in their next five appearances and hadn’t even made the tournament in 13 years.
It’s turned the campus into a frenzied excitement, even for President Harris Pastides.
Gamecock students in the fountain. know I should be upset…but I'm jealous! Final Four! pic.twitter.com/afVN4thZbF
— Harris Pastides (@HarrisPastides) March 26, 2017
Sorry students. If we cancel classes tomorrow, what would we do after a WBB win tomorrow? You had fun today. Go to class tomorrow!
— Harris Pastides (@HarrisPastides) March 27, 2017
Also, all four Columbia stations have promised to break in for the Gamecocks return home coverage.
— Jeffrey Collins (@JSCollinsAP) March 27, 2017
The seventh-seeded Gamecocks are not an obvious Cinderella story because of their seed since Connecticut, Kentucky and Syracuse have all made the Final Four in recent years as a No. 7, No. 8 and No. 10 seed.
But because of their scant basketball tradition, especially compared to the blue bloods like UConn, UK and Syracuse, the Gamecocks more reasonably fit alongside the likes of No. 11 seeds George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth, or Cinderella champions N.C. State and Villanova.
No one outside Colonial Life Arena, certainly those who follow the league closely, could have predicted this string of wins. Or could have predicted something like Saturday’s groundbreaking of the new football indoor facility being postponed because of the Final Four. Or the announcement earlier Monday that the football team’s spring game was being pushed up to noon Saturday, so as not to interrupt with Final Four viewing parties.
Martin, the son of Cuban immigrants who was raised by a single mother in Miami, now lays claim to coaching Kansas State’s only Elite Eight appearance in 29 years and South Carolina’s only Final Four trip in history.
Martin himself has worked a host of blue-collar and service-industry jobs, including as a bouncer when he had gunshots fired in his direction, The New York Times reported. His coaching career began more than 30 years ago as the coach of a JV basketball coach at a high school in Miami, only when the actual coach failed to show up to work one day, Business Insider reported.
The Gamecocks were ranked No. 8 in the preseason SEC media poll, and didn’t have a player make the first or second All-SEC teams. Then, in the quarterfinals of the SEC men’s basketball tournament in Nashville, fourth-seeded South Carolina lost to fifth-seeded Alabama 64-53. The Crimson Tide subsequently lost to Kentucky the next day and later to Richmond in the first round of the NIT.
The Gamecocks’ March run could be compared to 1983 N.C. State, though the Wolfpack was a No. 6 seed in a 48-team field, or 1985 Villanova, which was a No. 8 seed in the first year the tournament expanded to 64 teams. (Martin even did a Jim Valvano-like hug parade last week following the upset win over Duke.)
Butler, a small, private school in Indianapolis, was a No. 5 seed when it made the championship game against Duke in 2010. Butler was a No. 8 seed the following year, when it returned to the championship game but lost to UConn.
Kansas’ “Danny and The Miracles” 1988 championship team was a No. 6 seed.
Add in the nearly unheard of possibility of the same state — South Carolina — holding three college championship trophies in the same year after Clemson football and Coastal Carolina baseball took home their crowns, and it makes the potential outcome mind-boggling.
Between June 30
January 9 and
The state of South Carolina has been… pic.twitter.com/7oAIwsXKO5
— Jeffrey Collins (@JSCollinsAP) March 26, 2017
— Charles Bloom (@CharlesBloomSC) March 27, 2017
To find a similar championship year, you have to go back to when the football champion was decided by polls.
It happened in California in 1972 with the dynasty of UCLA men’s basketball shared championship experiences with Southern Cal football, which finished 12-0 and was ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, alongside the Southern Cal baseball team, which beat Arizona State to win the College World Series.
Duplicating that history doesn’t appear likely, yet then again, the success of the past month didn’t either.