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The 23rd Greatest College Basketball Program In The South: South Carolina Gamecocks

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on October 4, 2007


University of South Carolina

Location: Columbia, South Carolina

Nickname: Gamecocks

Reason For Nickname: There are many variations to how the nickname “Gamecocks” came about. According to the USC athletic department, one of those reasons came from the fact that war hero Thomas Sumter (for whom Fort Sumter in Charleston is named for) was known as the “Fighting Gamecock”. Not only that, the state is known for breeding gamecocks, which would explain the origin of the nickname, which has been popular since the early 1900’s.

Colors: Garnet and Black

Conference: Southeastern Conference

Arena: Colonial Center (built 2002, capacity 18,000)  

It’s South, Not North: The Gamecocks began playing basketball in 1907 and much like the football program at South Carolina throughout its history, it also has struggled to remain constantly completive. In 1933, the Gamecocks won the Southern Conference championship which would remain the only championship of any kind until 1971 when the Gamecocks went 14-0 and won the ACC. The Gamecocks would not win another conference title until 1997, when they won the SEC regular season crown.

Postseason Appearences: The Gamecocks have participated in eight NCAA Tournaments, including four in a row from 1971 to 1974 and back-to-back appearances in 1997 and 1998. In the middle of those periods, the Gamecocks went to the 1989 NCAA Tournament and lost in the first round as well as a trip in 2004 that also ended in a first-round defeat. Along with that, the Gamecocks have 10 appearances in the NIT (1969, 1975, 1978, 1983, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2005, and 2006) as well as back-to-back NIT championships in 2005 and 2006.

Coaching Legacy: Frank McGuire, who led the Tar Heels to their first national championship in 1957 against Wilt Chamberlain’s Kansas squad, is credited with the advancement of basketball in the Palmetto State, coaching the Gamecocks from 1965 to 1980 and winning 283 games, still the best in Gamecock history. The Cocks’ former home, Carolina Coliseum, was renamed in his honor in 1980 as Frank McGuire Arena.

Big Man On Campus: South Carolina’s greatest player was Columbia native Alex English, who is the second-leading scorer behind B.J. McKie. English starred for the Gamecocks from 1972 to 1976 and would later have a successful career in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets. He would later be inducted into the Naismath Basketball Hall of Fame for his career in 1997. Other greats to play for the Garnet and Black are Antonio Grant, B.J. McKie, and Ronaldo Balkman, who is currently with the New York Knicks.

Rivalries: Any Gamecock fan will tell you that without a shadow of a doubt the Clemson Tigers are the Gamecocks’ biggest rival in any sport, including basketball. The Gamecocks who have the upper hand in recruiting as well as success due in part to the two NIT championships as well as five postseason appearances under Dave Odom, while the Tigers have yet to return to the Big Dance (last appearance was 1998).

Did You Know?: The year that the Gamecocks last won an NCAA Tournament game was the same year that the Memphis Tigers made it to the Final Four for the first time, which was 1973. That team included English and a skinny white kid by the name of Mike Dunleavy.


4 Responses to “The 23rd Greatest College Basketball Program In The South: South Carolina Gamecocks”

  1. Just2Cocky said

    You’re wrong about the basketball series, Doc. South Carolina leads that one by about 15 games or so.

    And it’s “Renaldo Balkman” not “Ronaldo Blackman” (flashback to the 80s on that one)

    But suffice it to say you did a good job with this one. And 23rd sounds about right to me. To put us in the top 15 in the South when we haven’t won a tournament game in three-and-a-half decades wouldn’t have been right, even though the last decade has been a very good one.

  2. Layla said

    UNC and Florida have to be on the list.

  3. Matt said

    The list isn’t complete yet. We’re at #10 and counting towards #1…

  4. Yep, Doc is doing a solid job as always with the countdown.

    I think most of us can agree on the top 3 when the time comes……


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