Respect is Elusive for South Carolina Basketball

For the past several decades the University of South Carolina has been exclusively a football school.  That’s not surprising for any SEC school and to be fair the basketball program did little worthy of being noticed.  They had a fair amount of talent come through but even then they underachieved.  Until this year, their biggest claim to fame during the past 40 years was being on the wrong side of one of the biggest pointspread upsets in NCAA basketball tournament history when the 1997 Gamecocks lost to Coppin State 78-65 as -30 point favorites.  That also game them the dubious honor of being only the third #2 seed to lose to a #15 seed in the first round of ‘March  Madness’.
The long legacy of South Carolina basketball mediocrity is what made their 2017 NCAA tournament run so downright shocking.  The #7 Gamecocks made it all the way to the Final Four before losing 77-73 to #1 ranked Gonzaga.  Even in what was easily the best run in history of the Gamecocks hoop program they managed to be overshadowed as the South Carolina women’s basketball team won their National Championship. 
Even though South Carolina fell short of the NCAA Championship game the nation was put on notice that this is a program on the rise.  They’ve finally got a capable head coach in Frank Martin and despite some losses to graduation the future looks bright after a Final Four run that will pay big dividends in recruiting.  Martin is highly respected by every serious basketball expert in the country and the Gamecocks 2017 tournament run demonstrated that his team has ‘bought in’ to his nasty defensive style.
At least this is the way it’s ‘supposed’ to work.  The reality is that the Gamecocks’ basketball program is still getting no respect.  Just look at the college basketball futures betting odds at to win the 2018 National Championship and you’ll see exactly what we mean.  North Carolina is +1300 to repeat, runner up Gonzaga is priced at +2000 and Oregon is priced at +4500.  So what about the other team in the Final Four?  South Carolina is way down the list priced at +12000.  That’s not much of an improvement from the +15000 valuation the Gamecocks were given prior to the 2017 NCAA tournament. 
In all fairness, there’s plenty of reasons for the optimism of Gamecocks fans to be tempered heading into next season.  There’s a lot of young talent on hand including Chris Silva, Maik Kotsar, Hassani Gravett and Rakym Felder.  That’s the good news—the bad news is that the Gamecocks lost a ton.  Gone are three of the team’s top four scorers, the top rebounder and the leaders in assist and steals.  Ditto their best inside defender, their point guard and their ‘spiritual leader’.  Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice, Justin McKie and P.J. Dozier are a quartet virtually impossible to replace in one shot.  Coach Frank Martin is back and he’s confident in the younger players’ ability to become team leaders.  To replace the aforementioned four players, however, isn’t going to happen immediately.
On the other hand, the Gamecocks are far from being the first team to lose so much talent and leadership from year to year.  It’s a recurring fact of life in college basketball and particularly in today’s ‘one and done’ era.  A repeat Final Four performance is a lofty goal but to suggest that South Carolina is a +12000 underdog to win the National Championship is an insult to one of the best head coaches in basketball and the culture of winning he’s established at the school.