After bowl win, 'all the arrows are pointing up' for Gamecocks
It hasn't been the most dramatic year in South Carolina athletics, even in recent memory, but there was still plenty of action.
Here are our picks for the top 11 moments of the 2017-2018 Gamecocks athletics seasons (in chronological order):
1. Football: Kurt Roper fired — USC coach Will Muschamp's response to a second consecutive season of anemic offense was to fire offensive coordinator Kurt Roper at the end of the regular season. In Roper’s two seasons, the Gamecocks finished 13th and 12th in the SEC in total offense. Now, Bryan McClendon will see if he can give Muschamp the first potent offense of his head coaching career.
2. Women’s soccer: Final Four — For the first time, South Carolina qualified for the College Cup, the sport’s final four. Star striker Savannah McCaskill went on to be selected second overall in the National Women’s Soccer League College Draft.
3. Football: Beating Michigan — The 26-19 win against the Wolverines on Jan. 1 gave the Gamecocks nine wins, marking the seventh time South Carolina has won more than eight in a season. The 23-point second half sealed Muschamp’s decision to promote McClendon to offensive coordinator.
4. Women’s basketball: Elite Eight — It’s a testament to where coach Dawn Staley’s program is that an Elite Eight appearance is somewhat of a disappointment. The season ended with a 94-65 loss to top-seeded UConn.
5. Men’s basketball: The Brian Bowen saga — The Gamecocks did manage an upset of Kentucky, but the biggest story of the season, by far, was the arrival and exit of star recruit Brian Bowen. The former McDonald’s All-American left Louisville amidst an NCAA and Department of Justice investigation into college basketball and transferred to USC, but he never played a game and left school facing at least another year of suspension by the NCAA.
6. Women’s basketball: A’ja Wilson picked No. 1 — The South Carolina native who spurned UConn to sign with her home state school and led the Gamecocks to a national title ended her college career by being the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft. She’s averaging 20 points per game for the Las Vegas Aces.
7. Golf: Masters debut — Former USC golfer and Columbia native Wesley Bryan made his first appearance in the Masters. Bryan failed to make the cut after shooting rounds of 74 and 78.
8. Beach volleyball: Finishing strong — The Gamecocks completed their best season to date in the NCAA Tournament and with a 24-9 record. Four of the team’s five pairs reached 20 wins together during the season.
9. Women’s tennis: Historic finish — South Carolina finished No. 12 in the nation, its highest national ranking since 1999 and its second-highest in program history, behind only a No. 11 finish in 1995. The Gamecocks advanced to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season.
10. Softball: Super Regional season — Bev Smith took the Gamecocks to just their second softball Super Regional in history. After hosting a regional for the first time in Smith’s tenure, South Carolina’s season ended one game short of 50 wins in Tempe, Ariz.
11. Baseball: Surprise Super Regional — After starting Mark Kingston’s first season as head coach 20-17 and 6-9 in the SEC, the Gamecocks got hot and ended up one game from the College World Series. South Carolina fell 14-4 at Arkansas on Monday to end its season at 37-26 overall and 17-13 in the league.