IT’S TIME FOR those who are inclined to view Wofford as the gangly little brother who always seems to stumble into the spotlight – and then steal it – to stop looking at the program that way.
The Terriers are the most consistently good Division I basketball program in South Carolina.
Monday night they proved it again, defeating Upstate rival Furman 67-64 in the finals of the Southern Conference tournament in Asheville, N.C.
It also happened to be one of the best men’s basketball games played this season.
In a contest that saw 13 ties and 11 lead changes, Wofford brushed aside a Furman squad that was aiming to be one of history’s most unlikely NCAA Tournament teams.
Wofford (28-6) earned a spot in the field of 68 for the second consecutive season and fourth time in six years.
“To do it again is special – our fourth in six years and with as fun a group as I’ve ever had in 29 years of coaching,” Wofford coach Mike Young said. “These are team guys and selfless guys who represent the college and Spartanburg with unbelievable class. To be able to come in here with that net and represent our school in the NCAA Tournament again is beyond comprehension, and I’m really excited about it.”
He should be. And so should fans of the Terriers.
This is not some 16 seed that’s happy to be invited to the party, grab an hors d’oeuvre and leave. It’s a quality basketball squad with a Top 50 RPI, and one capable of feasting on some teams in regional competition.
Young loves the players who have once again extended the college basketball season in Spartanburg.
“(These are) high-character people,” Young said. “You don’t (win championships) with selfish, self-absorbed guys. These guys are about winning … what do you have to do to win?”
Forward Lee Skinner, the MVP of the SoCon Tournament who led four double-figure Terriers with 17 points on Monday, epitomizes the team-first approach.
Young joked in Monday’s news conference that timeouts are often comical and always enthusiastic, and sometimes his instructions get drowned out by Skinner.
He’s fine with that, which makes sense once you hear Skinner talk about playing at Wofford.
“The team, coach Young and the coaches, they all mean a lot to me,” Skinner said. “For me as an individual to be in this position, I can’t even put into words how much this team means to me. I’d do anything for them. If anyone is going to take a hit to the chin or come up big for the team, I want to be the one to go first. I’ve been that way from the first time I put on a jersey and played for coach Young.
“I’m excited about the next week or two. We’ve still got some work to do.”
Wofford heads into the NCAAs with an eight-game winning streak and is pegged by bracket-watchers as a 12 seed.
If that’s the case, the No. 5 seed that draws the Terriers in the opening round better come prepared for a 40-minute battle.
“It’s crazy,” guard Eric Garcia said. “I’m only a sophomore, so I don’t know what it’s like to lose.”
The “gangly little brother” grew up a long time ago.
Wofford is a big boy program now.