Mike Wilson/SEC Country
Sindarius Thornwell has already earned his place on USC hoops' Mount Rushmore.

Thornwell’s swan song already a success as he prepares for Final Four

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No matter what happens on Saturday, Sindarius Thornwell has solidified his place in the pantheon of South Carolina basketball.

SEC Player of the Year. Final Four berth. Those alone put Thornwell at, or at least near, the top. But doing it all as a Palmetto State native? The senior already is a legend.

With the news breaking on Thursday that Thornwell was under the weather and missed practice, Carolina fans either shuddered in fear or had visions of Michael Jordan’s famous Flu Game.

RELATED: Sindarius Thornwell misses Final Four practice with ‘body temperature’ 

“He is a warrior,” freshman guard Rakym Felder said. “He is going to be out on this court. He has a lot of heart.”

Whether he explodes for 30 points or is seriously hobbled by illness, the Lancaster native is playing with house money — taking the Gamecocks to unprecedented heights and drastically boosting his NBA draft stock in the last two weeks alone.

Thornwell is one of those rare players (a la Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw and Jackie Bradley Jr.) that draws in not only fans of the Gamecocks but fans of college sports in general.

It’s been a treat to watch him play and grow. I can’t wait to see what his last weekend in a South Carolina uniform holds.

Big-time visitors for spring game

Final Four. Spring game. The nation’s No. 2 overall prospect for 2018 on campus. Saturday should be a crazy day for the Gamecocks.

RELATED: Visitors for the Garnet & Black Spring Game

SEC Country has confirmed that nine major 2018 prospects will be at Williams-Brice on Saturday to take in the game, with 5-star DE Xavier Thomas among them.

Beyond the 2018 recruits, several 2017 signees and multiple players from the 2019 cycle will be on campus.

Staley prepares to take on mentor

Dawn Staley will face a former coach of hers on Friday, when the Lady Gamecocks play Stanford in a Final Four tilt.

Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer coached Staley on the 1996 Olympic team …

“I saw that whole year how she operated, the preparation it took, how she breaks down the game to the smallest thing,” Staley said of VanDerveer. “Those little things, they add up. If you take care of the small details, the big things don’t get out of hand.”

The two have an incredible history together, one that’s almost come full circle with Staley taking over the Olympic program.

The coaches’ familiarity with one another adds just another level of intrigue and excitement to this massive No. 1 seed vs. No. 2 seed showdown Friday night.

Thornwell the All-American

South Carolina basketball-Sindarius Thornwell
Sindarius Thornwell (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After being snubbed for All-American honors following the regular season, South Carolina’s spectacular senior finally earned All-American status on Thursday, courtesy of CBS Sports.

RELATED: Sindarius Thornwell named first-team All-American by CBS Sports 

“Any media outlet that did All-America teams before this NCAA Tournament began was at risk of omitting the best player on a Final Four team who is averaging 25.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in this three-week event,” CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote.

Ranking USC’s run

CBS Sports just can’t get enough of the Gamecocks!

In a ranking of “the most unlikely national semifinalists since the tournament went to 64 teams in 1985,” South Carolina’s current run to the Final Four comes in at No. 3 

“In Madison Square Garden, South Carolina twisted Baylor into refuse with a 70-50 win. And the 77-70 victory over Florida was a come-from-behind exclamation point,” writes Norlander. “Sindarius Thornwell’s name will never be forgotten, and at this point his legend is on par with the great Devan Downey. Shoutout to Devan Downey.”

Gamecocks hosting graduate transfer QB

South Carolina-Thomas Sirk
QB Thomas Sirk (Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)

With Brandon McIlwain and Lorenzo Nunez both leaving the program, the Gamecocks’ backup quarterback situation is majorly lacking experience.

Rising redshirt junior Michael Scarnecchia is the only quarterback under starter Jake Bentley on the depth chart with any playing experience. That experience is extremely limited, with Scarnecchia completing just one garbage-time pass against LSU in 2015.

RELATED: South Carolina to host graduate transfer QB Thomas Sirk

With a major question mark at backup, the Gamecocks have turned to one of college football’s hottest free agents, former Duke QB Thomas Sirk …

A dynamic dual-threat QB for the Blue Devils in 2015, Sirk was recruited to Duke under current Gamecocks OC Kurt Roper, so a rapport has already been established.

Getting Sirk into the fold would be huge for 2017, but my gut tells me the quarterback is looking for a starting position, not a designated backup spot.

The puppies have spoken

According to Petplan’s Pup-nosticators, the Gamecocks will top Gonzaga on Saturday, then go on to beat Oregon in the national championship game on Monday.

The Pup-nosticators: Final Four Predictions

We're getting excited for the Final Four this weekend, and so are our Pup-nosticators! These snuggly, adorable Pitbull puppies from Morris Animal Refuge, America's first animal shelter, dropped by Petplan to lend a paw with the picks. Watch the video below to see who they picked in The Big Dance, and sniff out the over-under pick on the prop bet! It's March Muttness!A HUGE bark-out to The Honest Kitchen for providing the yummy food the pups ate today! Check out their delicious options at www.thehonestkitchen.com

Posted by Petplan Pet Insurance – North America on Thursday, March 30, 2017

 

Why even play the games? I think you can go ahead and give us the trophy …

Who I’m watching this weekend

You know A’ja Wilson wants another shot at UConn.

Between the men’s and women’s Final Four games and the USC spring game (AND Wrestlemania!), it’s a busy weekend for Carolina fans.

To help keep track of all the excitement, I’ve picked out five Gamecocks I’ll have my eye on over the next few days:

  1. A’ja Wilson: The two-time SEC Player of the Year leads the Lady Gamecocks against the Stanford Cardinal in a huge national championship semifinal on Friday night. Wilson and her teammates are looking for (likely) another shot at undefeated UConn in the national championship game.
  2. Ty’Son Williams: I’ve been a fan of Williams since his time at UNC and can’t wait to see him on the field Saturday. The former North Carolina running back wowed teammates as a member of the scout team in 2016; now, it’s time to show the fans what he can do.
  3. Chris Silva: The Gamecocks’ big man has been tremendous in their run to the Final Four. Can he keep it up? Silva must stay out of foul trouble for the Gamecocks to score points against Gonzaga’s No. 1-ranked defense.
  4. Rico Dowdle: Closer to full health and with Williams nipping at his heels, RB Dowdle says he and the Gamecocks “have a bunch to prove to people.” The path to success in 2017 continues on Saturday.
  5. Sindarius Thornwell: Like he wasn’t going to close this out?
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