South Carolina’s season has ended.
The NIT revealed its 32-team field Sunday evening and the Gamecocks were not a part of it. USC’s year is over with a 17-16 record.
The NIT selection committee viewed Carolina’s record at 16-16, dismissing the victory over Division II Limestone on Dec. 27. The Gamecocks entered Sunday with an RPI of 89 and the 26th-toughest strength of schedule in the country. They had four “Quadrant 1” wins, including wins over NCAA tournament teams Auburn, Florida and Kentucky.
After a six-game losing streak Jan. 27-Feb. 13, USC went 4-3 over its final seven games.
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“We’ve gotten better,” Carolina coach Frank Martin said Thursday following the loss to Arkansas in the second round of the SEC tournament. “We’re a better team. We’ve played well coming down the stretch.”
Martin also noted in St. Louis that USC would only take an NIT bid. The lower-tier CBI and CIT were not options.
The SEC placed a record eight teams in the NCAA tournament and another two -- LSU and Mississippi State -- in the NIT.
The Gamecocks follow Oklahoma as Final Four teams one year that failed to make the NCAA tournament or NIT the next. After appearing in the national semifinals in 2015-16, the Sooners went 11-20 in 2016-17.
USC lost over 70 percent of its scoring, nearly 60 percent of its rebounding and over 80 percent of its assists from last year’s team.
The Gamecocks, as of Sunday night, are expected to return 68.7 percent of their scoring, 72.3 percent of their rebounding and 72.6 percent of their assists for the 2018-19 team. This doesn’t include possible additions of Rakym Felder and Brian Bowen, a redshirting pair this season. Departing seniors are graduate transfer guards Frank Booker and Wes Myers.
Martin has now completed four straight winning seasons, making him the first USC coach to do since Frank McGuire. McGuire went the final 14 of his 16-season tenure – from 1966-80 – with a record above .500.