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Spiders no longer spook Gamecocks program

Darrin Horn wanted a good game. So the USC men's basketball coach scheduled Richmond, not aware of the Spiders' historical significance to the Gamecocks program until someone brought it up.

"Luckily, none of us were scarred by that, so it won't be the kind of thing that, you know, late in the game if it's close, we'll be worried about what happened 11 or 12 years ago, whatever it was," Horn said.

It was 11 years and nine months.

South Carolina, a third seed in the 1998 NCAA tournament, fell in the first round to No. 14 seed Richmond, the second consecutive mega-upset the Gamecocks suffered in the Big Dance.

If the Spiders knock off the Gamecocks tonight, it would be much less of a shock.

Richmond (7-2) was receiving votes in the polls before losing last week at crosstown rival Virginia Commonwealth. The Spiders own neutral-site victories against Mississippi State and Missouri; throw in a win last season against St. John's, and they own a three-game winning streak against teams from BCS conferences.

Horn said Richmond might be the best team USC (6-2) - which will be without injured starters Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes - has faced this season.

Richmond ranked 33nd in the Ratings Percentage Index as of Monday. South Carolina was 69th.

"I'm not so sure this isn't the best team we've played this year, in terms of being really good at what they do and being experienced, and having been tested and come through some of those tests," Horn said. "They're a great example of us wanting to upgrade our schedule."

This isn't the first time South Carolina has faced Richmond since that infamous NCAA tournament game. USC got a measure of revenge in the 2003 title game of the Guardians Classic, a tournament held in Kansas City.

Tonight it probably will be only fans who think back to 1998. And perhaps Eddie Fogler - the Gamecocks' coach 11 years ago and the color analyst for tonight's game on SportSouth.

Richmond's coach at the time, John Beilein, is now at Michigan. The Spiders are coached by Chris Mooney and since have moved from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Atlantic 10.

Even before 1998, Richmond was a regular spoiler in the NCAA tournament. It beat Charles Barkley's Auburn team in 1984, defending national champion Indiana and fifth-seeded Georgia Tech in 1988, and in 1991 the Spiders became the first No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed, Syracuse.

There have been down times since, but the improved Spiders were featured on SI.com this week. The story pointed out that Richmond has been "largely irrelevant nationally" since 1991 - briefly mentioning its '98 upset of South Carolina.

"The Spiders' relative anonymity might not last much longer," SI.com's Andy Glockner wrote.

The present, not the past, was Horn's focus when he scheduled the game.

"This is a team that's gonna win an awful lot of games, that's capable of literally playing with and beating anybody in the country on a given night," Horn said. "They're extremely good at what they do, and it's the kind of game that really makes a difference (on an NCAA tournament resume) when you look back at the end of the year."

Injury updates. Horn said Holmes (closed head injury) could be back by the start of SEC play in three weeks but added that it "could be less, could be more."

Archie (severe knee sprain) remains out indefinitely, according to Horn.

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