Frank Martin: Courage, buy-in stand out with this year's Gamecocks
Stop it, Chicken Little.
South Carolina’s men’s basketball team lost a four-overtime thriller to Alabama on Tuesday night and suddenly, the sky was falling for some fans. Never mind that the Gamecocks are No. 25 in the RPI. Never mind that South Carolina (20-5, 10-2) is tied for first in the Southeastern Conference. Never mind that the Gamecocks are projected as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN.com and a No. 6 seed by CBSSports.com.
Bubble teams don’t get five seeds. The Gamecocks aren’t a bubble team. They are one of the three best teams in a Power 5 conference, and there’s no reason to believe that they’ll wilt, especially after a bounce-back 77-73 win over Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., on Saturday night.
They’ll beat Arkansas at home on Wednesday night, get either Vanderbilt or Florida on the road, go no worse than 1-1 to finish up the regular season against Tennessee and Mississippi State and be fine.
The Gamecocks are a solid team built around a commodity (defense) that doesn’t ebb or flow at the fate of the basketball gods like shooting can. There’s no reason to think this team is going to fall in a hole after one ugly loss.
Well, there’s no reason other than psychological conditioning. Part of being a Gamecocks fan is waiting for the other shoe to drop – right on top of your birthday cake, usually. It’s time to start scrubbing that stain out of your psyche and this week is as good a time as any to start.
Frank Martin’s team will make the NCAA Tournament. You can relax now.
That’s always been harder than it sounds for Gamecocks fans, and these fragile times for South Carolina fans.
The football team is coming off its second consecutive losing season where it suffered a 56-7 loss to its archrival and is on the front end of a major rebuilding project. The Law of Gravity and the Law of College Football tell us climbing up the mountain takes a lot longer than falling off the cliff.
The baseball team hasn’t been to Omaha since 2012. Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks, gasp, didn’t make the Elite Eight last year.
Columbia’s civic motto is Famously Hot, but it just as easily could be Famously Handwringing. Sure, the men’s basketball team was left hanging by the selection committee last season despite having 24 victories on Selection Sunday. Sure, there are examples throughout history that justify some built-in sense of impending doom. And, sure, in some early versions of the Chicken Little fable all the animals other than Chicken Little are eaten by a fox (true story), but it can be a new day.
Will Muschamp is optimistic. The baseball team is ranked in the nation’s top five in the preseason. Staley’s squad is 20-2 and in charge of the SEC.
And Martin’s team is going to get an NCAA Tournament berth. Stop sweating it.