South Carolina thought it was in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, until it wasn’t.
That’s right. The Gamecocks received a call saying they were invited to the NCAA tournament, but then received some drastically different news: They weren’t going dancing after all.
NOLA.com’s Ron Higgins reported that South Carolina was informed by a person who makes travel arrangements for teams that it was invited to the big dance, said to hang on for another call, but the call confirming the invitation never came. South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner confirmed the report to WISTV.com.
Tanner told the TV station that coach Frank Martin received a call around 6:30 p.m. on Selection Sunday informing him that his team was invited to the tournament. Ten minutes later, Tanner said NCAA officials called the school back to admit that the school’s invitation was actually a mistake.
On Thursday, the NCAA released a statement from Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships:
“Unfortunately, during the selection show a junior men’s basketball staff member mistakenly sent a text to a member of the University of South Carolina athletics department staff via an app we used for the first time during the 2016 tournament. The text was supposed to go to all teams, congratulating them for making the tournament. Regrettably, a text meant for another institution went to South Carolina instead.
While the Gamecocks were given serious consideration, at no time during the selection process was South Carolina voted in to the field. Ultimately, they were one of the last four teams left out of the tournament. I take full responsibility for this clerical error and apologize to Coach Martin, his staff and team, and the entire University of South Carolina community.”
Curiously, SEC foe Vanderbilt earned a bid as one of the last four teams in the field. Vandy’s time in the tournament was brief, as it was bludgeoned by Wichita State in a play-in game. Coach Kevin Stallings left the school earlier in the week to take the job at Pittsburgh.
The Gamecocks settled for the National Invitation Tournament and fell in the second round to Georgia Tech. The program’s 25 wins were tied for the most in school history and South Carolina appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since the 2003-04 season.