David Cloninger

Cloninger: The Magic Number

23.

It’s not just flavors of Dr. Pepper, or Michael Jordan’s number, or a bad Jim Carrey movie. It’s the number of wins South Carolina has this season, but more importantly, the number of wins that should be enough.

The Gamecocks are going to the NCAA tournament.

At the risk of being called a jinx (Gamecock fans believing in the supernatural? No!), I’ve said 23 should be the magic number all season and I won’t back off now. Going by straight numbers, the Gamecocks will end the SEC tournament no worse than 23-9 (and that’s if they go one-and-done, when they’ve won four games in Nashville over the past two seasons). The NCAA selection committee would examine that record without getting into RPI (good), strength of schedule (not so good) and end-of-season stretch (if the record is 23-9, that means USC loses out).

And it should still be enough. A Power-5 team with 20-plus wins, less than 10 losses, 10 wins in its conference?

That’s it. Enough. Pack your bags, boys, you’re headed to Des Moines/Providence/Denver/Spokane/who cares where, because for the first time since 2004, the Gamecocks are going dancing. They’ll be one of the final 68, which means they have just as good a chance to win six games over three weeks as those other 67. All it takes is an invite, and then let the ides of March work their madness.

Twenty-three is enough, but might as well make it certain. Especially with an SEC championship still very much in play. It’s still stunning to me that the program-high in single-season wins remains 25, and that team didn’t go to the postseason. The Gamecocks could make this more historical than it’s already been.

Of course they say they’re not thinking of it, as they shouldn’t. And it is worth noting that since the run of 10-win SEC teams not going to the NCAA tournament began in 2008-09 when USC was left out, it’s become rather popular.

Still, I believe this is all USC needs. It’s been quite a run.

Can’t wait to see how it ends.

South Carolina men's basketball team Frank Martin discusses the team's season, its success and how the Gamecocks are playing as the postseason nears.

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