March Madness: The State of South Carolina seeing unprecedented success
Letter writer J. Larry Broyles of Augusta recently made a terrific observation about the amazing phenomenon we are watching literally play out in South Carolina.
The state is home to the reigning champions of both college football, at Clemson, and college baseball, at Coastal Carolina. And now, both the South Carolina men's and women's basketball teams are in the Final Four.
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If this confluence were a meteorological anomaly forming over the state, the Weather Channel would be all over it. The network's ubiquitous Jim Cantore would be standing in a South Carolina lawn reporting on it breathlessly.
What kind of atmospheric event can explain what's happening in South Carolina this year?
It has to be an upper-level disturbance, which is defined as when teams from one state converge in all three sports to rise to the very top, making the sporting world's most rarefied air unstable.
It's only the 10th time in history that the same school has both the men's and women's teams in the Final Four in the same year.
That the USC women are there is an absolute thrill, but less of a surprise. Hall of Fame icon Dawn Staley, who coached the Temple Owls to six NCAA tournament appearances in six years -- while playing pro ball at the same time -- has now done the same thing for South Carolina, and also led the Gamecocks to the Final Four in 2015.
Understandably, and justifiably, the USC women were seeded first in their region.
But the USC men? Until this month, they hadn't won an NCAA tournament game since 1973. The year before Coach Frank Martin arrived in 2012, the team won just 10 games all season. Now?
"In the past 10 days," FoxSports.com's Chris Chase wrote this week, "South Carolina has won twice as many NCAA tournament games...than they had in the school's entire history."
To get to the Final Four, the USC men had to go through Duke -- busting through millions of sports fans' NCAA bracket predictions -- as well as win upsets against Baylor and Florida.
The famous -- or perhaps infamous -- maniacal determination on Coach Martin's face apparently has translated to the hardwood.
"There is one thing meaner and nastier in college basketball than South Carolina coach Frank Martin's withering stare," writes ESPN's Dana O'Neil. "It's his team. And the Gamecocks are about to bring all that angry energy to the Final Four."
In honor of standout player Sindarius Thornwell, who was East Regional MVP, the Gamecocks have been called a "Sin-derella" team. But Fox's Chase -- in a column headlined "South Carolina is the most stunning Final Four team in years, but it's no Cinderella" -- argues that while "South Carolina checks all the boxes for an NCAA tournament Cinderella ... The baseball team has two national championships. The soccer teams are a perennial contender. Swimming, track and golf have produced champions. The school's other basketball team made a Final Four two years ago. And while the football team is often a doormat, even they played for the SEC championship in 2010."
In short, this university is for real, and neither USC team needed a fairy godmother to punch their Final Four tickets.
What a year for USC. What a year for the Palmetto State.
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