The Gamecocks are led by senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, who averaged 21.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He's been the catalyst of an offensive explosion fro the Gamecocks that no one - not Thornwell, not Frank Martin, not anyone - could have seen coming.
Six players are averaging double-figure scoring in the NCAA Tournament, and a seventh has 9.0 points a game - all without having to play too many minutes.
Thornwell dropped 29 against Marquette in the opener and was huge in the upset over Duke with 24.
Now, he will get to showcase his skills on the brightest stage when seventh-seeded SC (24-10) meets No. 3 Baylor (27-7) in the first of two Eastern Regional Sweet 16 games Friday at Madison Square Garden.
"Coach has broke down every made shot that he's had and we have all watched at least about three hours of film on just Sindarius", Baylor senior Ishmael Wainwright said. "He's a great player".
"Coach told us just to continue to listen to him", Thornwell said. He already had won 117 games at Kansas State when he was hired at SC in 2012.
SC is in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1973 after breaking a 13-year NCAA tournament drought.
"Sure enough, after Thornwell led Lancaster to its first regional championship as a freshman, schools such as Tennessee State, Clemson and SC extended scholarship offers". He is loyal, and that loyalty nearly kept him from leaving Lancaster for Oak Hill in the first place. Out West is the same way - there are a bunch of great teams, but few guys who you'd say have star potential in the National Basketball Association.
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He might be one of the best college basketball players with the lowest of profiles.
"And it's who he has become".
You can try and argue that he's not the best player on UCLA, but no one else succeeds as much as they would with him. He was in the mix for a spot on the NBC Sports All-American teams before South Carolina's late-season swoon.
The Baylor Bears are playing the South Carolina Gamecocks tonight NCAA Tournament play.
"I wish I was going", said Thompson, the South Carolina Gamecocks fan also known as "Baseline Jesus".
Thornwell did that for his state, and he wasn't alone. Fellow guard Duane Notice added 17 points. A misstep early in his SC career nearly ended his association with Martin; Felder was arrested on simple assault and other charges in October. Freshman Maik Kotsar, a 6-foot-10-inch Estonian, and Chris Silva, a 6-foot-9-inch sophomore from Gabon, will have to continue their strong tournament efforts if SC is to stand a chance on Friday. We all grew up in SC. He already had advanced as far as an Elite Eight with the Wildcats, which is farther than the Gamecocks had ever gotten, even during the 16 years they were coached by the fabled Frank McGuire. The Bears want to get as many touches in the paint as they can. Baylor head coach Scott Drew specifically notes in this piece how good Thornwell is. "It was only two and a half".