BY AUSTIN MCCRACKEN | Ball State Sports Link
When you think of the University of South Carolina, what comes to mind? Gamecock Football, which has produced numerous seasons of success and Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers?
A baseball team with 29 NCAA Tournament appearances and back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2012? Or maybe a women’s basketball team with three straight years of being a No. 1 seed and in this year’s title game?
Well, you may think of all three, but there is one team who has risen from being an SEC unmentionable to national championship contender — the South Carolina men’s basketball team.
More than four decades have passed since the men’s basketball team has been in a Sweet 16, and now they are just one win away from making it to their first-ever national championship game. The key to their success?
Many would argue head coach Frank Martin and the first ever Gamecock SEC Player of the Year, Sindarius Thornwell, have been those keys to success. But, every player and coach has played a part in getting the Gamecocks to where they are now.
The Gamecocks rich history in men’s basketball is heavily rooted in the Frank McGuire era from 1965-80.
McGuire led South Carolina to an undefeated ACC regular season in 1970, an ACC championship game in 1971 and three consecutive NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearances from 1971-73.
In his 16 years of coaching, McGuire posted an overall record of 283-142 and earned a spot in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Following Frank McGuire’s tenure with the Gamecocks, there were several years of unsuccessful seasons and even a two-year ban from 1987-89 for violating NCAA recruitment regulations.
In 1994, things changed positively for South Carolina.
Eddie Fogler was hired from Vanderbilt as the Gamecocks head coach and — within three years — returned South Carolina back to its winning roots.
From 1996-98, Fogler led the team to an impressive 66-28 record with its first ever SEC Championship win coming in 1997. Fogler retired in 2001 as one of the most successful SEC coaches in history, winning conference championships with both Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
After decades of lackluster performance and falling short of deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, the Gamecocks are now in a position to win its first ever national championship.
The road has been anything but easy for them, too. South Carolina has defeated a variety of seeds — No. 10 Marquette, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Baylor and No. 4 Florida on its way to becoming the East Regional Champions.
The Gamecocks are the only team in the tournament to beat the two, three and four seeds.
South Carolina’s journey has now led them to No. 1 Gonzaga — also reaching its first Final Four appearance in school history.
Will the Gamecocks prevail, or will the Ides of March strike once again in South Carolina?
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