First, a major congratulations must be put out to all of those involved in the Men’s and Women’s Gamecock Basketball programs. This year was monumental firsts for our programs.
On the men’s side, they made it to the Elite Eight and the Final Four for the first time in program history after being left out of the tournament last year. They were the Cinderella story this year. Unlike most stories, where one player plays out of their mind for two games, leading the team to a few upsets only to be blown out and laughed off the court, that’s not how the Gamecocks went out.
Sindarius Thornwell was the clear character in the story, averaging over 25 points per game through the beginning of the tournament. When he was reported sick before the game versus Gonzaga, a lot of people thought they were going to be wiped up and down the court by a one loss team.
Gonzaga had South Carolina in tough spots, leading by 14 points, but South Carolina didn’t give up – they fought, they hustled, they played tough defense and eventually regained the lead. Other players stepped up to the challenge and made tough shots and strong defensive plays to propel the team forward. They made Gonzaga play their A game to best our boys, a noble way for us to end our season.
Our women are the even bigger success story. The anticipated tournament winners, UConn, were knocked out by Mississippi State on a buzzer beater shot in over time. From there, South Carolina out hustled and out worked Miss St in the finals, earning Dawn Staley her NCAA tournament championship that she narrowly missed so many times as a college athlete.
The heroine of that story is Aliana Coates, the number one recruit in her class who decided to stay home at South Carolina to bring home a championship. But just like Thornwell, it’s unfair to give her too much credit. Every single one of those girls worked for that championship.
Although their success is more in line with their past history of doing well in the NCAA tournament recently, their success is unfairly overshadowed by the new success of the Men’s team. Partly due to the fact that it’s Men’s sports vs Women’s sports, the Men’s story is discussed more.
A few more tidbits:
One of the funniest things that I saw was the guy who called Elite Eight within five years of Frank Martin taking over on twitter. We did it and his life was made. (looking for link)
The nicest summary of what the men’s team went through, but wholly applies to women’s program as well, was this article. It’s all about a team believing in itself and never giving up, no matter how easy it is to give up on ourselves.