South Carolina is in the Sweet 16 for the first time under the current format. Sixteen things to know as the Gamecocks prepare to face Baylor on Friday:
1. Vegas, baby
The Gamecocks are a 50-1 shot to win the national championship, according to Bovada. Baylor is a three-point favorite Friday.
Freshman Rakym Felder, hero of the win over Duke, played at Brooklyn’s Lincoln High after transferring from Indian Land High. He’ll play in front of his hometown crowd for the third time this year.
3. The Big Apple
Frank Martin loves playing in New York, since his wife’s family is there and he recruits the area. He’s 3-2 within city limits since he arrived at USC, beating Manhattan, Iowa State and Syracuse at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center while losing at St. John’s and against Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden.
4. Booted Devils
In ESPN’s BracketBuster contest, 7.3 million brackets had Duke as a Final Four team. South Carolina vs. Baylor in the Sweet 16 was chosen in only 2.1 percent of brackets.
5. A lot of firsts
A win against Baylor makes Martin the winningest NCAA Tournament coach in USC’s history (not counting consolation games). He would also have notched two of the three best single-season win totals in program history (record is 25, reached by Frank McGuire in 1969-70 and by Martin last year).
6. Lucky seven
The Gamecocks are a seven-seed, which ties for the third lowest of the Sweet 16. Only Wisconsin (8) and Xavier (11) are lower, while Michigan is also a seven. The lowest seed ever to win the NCAA Tournament was No. 8 Villanova in 1985.
Martin drew raves (and rants) for his sport jacket against Duke, a garnet plaid affair that he paired with garnet slacks and a cream-colored shirt. A shopping trip to Saks can’t be off the radar once the Gamecocks hit NYC.
8. Football joins celebration
Even the USC football team joined in the celebration after the Gamecocks’ big win. “We had guys jumping in the pool. Just real excited for them,” QB Jake Bentley said.
9. Clowney, too
Houston Texans Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney was at USC’s win against Duke in Greenville and sang the alma mater after the game. He even got some face time with Martin.
10. 65 a half
USC’s 65 points against Duke in the second half was more than they scored in nine games during the regular season.
11. National respect
“I can see this team beating Baylor. Frank Martin’s finally getting widespread acclaim for his abilities as a coach.” Matt Norlander of CBSsports.com
12. ACC flameout
One week ago, the ACC ruled college basketball with nine bids, most of any conference. But with Duke losing and Louisville losing to Michigan, North Carolina is the only ACC team left in the Sweet 16.
13. Sin moving up
With 24 points against Duke, Sindarius Thornwell is now only 26 points away from being USC’s fourth highest all-time scorer, passing Devan Downey.
14. Coming up fives
USC had five players who scored in double figures against Duke, including Thornwell (24), Duane Notice (17), Chris Silva (17), Felder (15) and PJ Dozier (11).
15. Praise from Sir Charles
TBS commentator Charles Barkley on USC’s win: “That was one of the greatest turnarounds from the first to the second half that I have ever seen from awful to amazing.”
16. Defense, defense
USC held Duke to 38.9 percent shooting in the second half, 37 percent from the three-point line.
NCAA East Regional
Who: South Carolina (24-10) vs. Baylor (27-7)
When: 7:29 p.m. Friday
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
Following game: Wisconsin (27-9) vs. Florida (26-8)