USC Men's Basketball

South Carolina basketball learns its NIT fate. The Gamecocks’ season is over

What Frank Martin said about chance to play in NIT

South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin believes the Gamecocks are worthy of postseason play.
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South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin believes the Gamecocks are worthy of postseason play.

South Carolina’s basketball season is over.

The Gamecocks on Sunday learned they didn’t make the NIT. It marks the second straight year USC arrived on selection day with a chance only to be denied from the 32-team field.

Carolina finishes with a 16-16 record.

Frank Martin’s bunch went 17-16 last year, but parts of this year’s résumé seemed to give the Gamecocks a better shot. After a sluggish first two months, they rebounded by going 11-7 and earning the No. 4 seed for the SEC Tournament. They won seven games against “quadrant one” and “quadrant two” competition — see victories over Florida (road), Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M (road), Ole Miss, Arkansas and Georgia (road) — and even put themselves in NCAA Tournament discussion. They entered Sunday with a NET ranking of 81.

But the overall record was too hard to overcome.

Since the selection committee only acknowledges wins over Division I opponents, USC, which beat D-II North Greenville on Dec. 31, was 15-16 in their eyes. While there is no rule that requires a team to be .500 or better for the NIT, the tournament has just never taken a team with that kind of record.

Carolina had a good chance to improve its standing this week in Nashville, but, coming off a double-bye, lost to Auburn on Friday in an SEC Tournament quarterfinal game.

The fifth-seeded Tigers went on to win the SEC Tournament championship.

“Bottom line is we didn’t win enough to get into the NCAA Tournament,” Martin said Friday. “By me saying that we are doesn’t mean we belong. I’m just saying we’re good enough to be in that. We didn’t do enough early in the year to put ourselves in that situation.

“But I think we got a good team. I think you ask anybody in our league that’s competed against us for the last two months, they’ll tell you we’re worthy of a postseason opportunity.”

No more games means Chris Silva’s South Carolina career is over. The two-time All-SEC forward is leaving the Gamecocks 10th all-time in scoring, sixth in rebounds, third in free throws made, third in free throws attempted, sixth in blocks and fifth in games started.

Martin is 129-106 after seven seasons as USC’s coach. He moved past Eddie Fogler and Dave Odom this season as the third-winningest coach in Gamecock history.

Among the list of expected Carolina returnees for 2019-20 are reigning All-SEC Freshman Team member A.J. Lawson and fellow promising rookie Keyshawn Bryant. Justin Minaya and T.J. Moss, starters for parts of 2018-19, are due back from injury.

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.

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