It was a long five-year process for Frank Martin in taking South Carolina basketball from years of mediocrity back to the NCAA Tournament.
But it’s what happened after Selection Sunday that was most impressive, as the Gamecocks made a run all the way to the Final Four. For that, Martin was picked in Sports Illustrated’s annual “Effys,” awards based on analytics.
The analytics didn’t give South Carolina much of a chance to emerge from a region featuring No. 1 seed Villanova and No. 2-seeded Duke, but because they did, Martin was named the coach that was “best at exceeding NCAA Tournament expectations.”
“Neither the people, nor the metrics, foresaw the Gamecocks’ incredible postseason run,” wrote SI’s Luke Winn. “Just 0.6% of brackets filled out on ESPN.com had South Carolina in the Final Four. Kenpom.com’s log5 analysis of the tourney field gave Martin’s team a 1.7% chance of reaching Glendale, Ariz., and the composite metric I used in bracket analysis on SI.com gave the Gamecocks just a 1.0% chance. They came into the tourney as an offensively challenged team, with no winning momentum, in a loaded East Region … and closed the tourney as its biggest surprise story.”
South Carolina was the underdog in each of its NCAA Tournament games and came in without a win in the tournament in 44 years.
The Gamecocks won four, doubling the school’s all-time wins in the NCAA Tournament from four to eight in a single postseason. USC made the run with a 20-point win against Marquette after trailing by 10 and an upset against No. 2 Duke in a crazy environment in Greenville, S.C.
It went to New York City, playing at Madison Square Garden and recording another 20-point win, this one against the high-powered Baylor offense. South Carolina then secured the first Final Four berth in program history with a hard-fought, 57-53 win against Florida.
South Carolina’s season ended in the Final Four in a 77-73 loss to Gonzaga.