The problem is that expectations were raised.
Coming into the season, knowing that South Carolina had finished last year very strongly but its recruiting class had suffered a Job-like run of bad luck, I figured a winning season would be quite an accomplishment. I think most agreed with me – but then came Iowa State.
Beating the Cyclones capped a seven-game winning streak. Defeating the then-No. 9 team in the country away from home made everyone think, “Hey, they can make a run at something really good this year! Winning season? Too low.”
The Gamecocks beat other good teams during that seven-game streak – Oklahoma State, Clemson – but both were at home. So a loss to Iowa State probably would have kept the original expectations intact and spared the crushing disappointment when the Gamecocks began the SEC season 1-6.
That’s when the venom again surfaced. Blah blah Frank Martin yells too much blah blah Gregg Marshall blah blah this is inexcusable. Year 3 (for Martin, really Year 2 considering he had one warm body and several spare parts in his first season) was never going to be enough time to turn this program around, yet many couldn’t accept that.
And still, with expectations raised and then lowered and then bottoming when the Gamecocks were reduced to an at-best 10 men every night, Martin found a way to hit those original expectations. If USC doesn’t play in a postseason tournament, it will finish no worse than .500.
That’s not a reason to pop a cork. Until one realizes that the last time USC finished .500 or better, the guy that did color analysis for Wednesday’s game was coaching the team, and there’s a reason why he’s doing what he does right now.