Rick Pitino

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 (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

No.1 How legit is No.24 South Carolina (11-0)?

If you’re a skeptic, that’s understandable. After all, this is South Carolina we’re talking about. Trusting Bernard Madoff with your 401K inspires more confidence than the Gamecocks.

South Carolina hasn’t started a season this well since prior to World War II. Not only are the Gamecocks one of five remaining unbeaten teams in the country, but they haven’t been this good since 1933-34, when they were 17-0.

“Their work ethic in the off-season and the preseason is better than any team I’ve ever been associated with,” coach Frank Martin said of his players. “We’ve won five games away from home. That’s good stuff. You only win five games away from home when you have a core of guys who are full committed.”

The Gamecocks were picked by the media to finish 7th in the 14-team Southeastern Conference. They are winning with five players averaging in double figures – and that doesn’t even include freshman guard PJ Dozier (8.4), a McDonald’s All-American.

South Carolina’s schedule makes it difficult to gauge. Its strength of schedule ranks No.299 out of 351 schools by kenpom. Its toughest opponent probably has been Tulsa. The Gamecocks entered the Associated Press top 25 poll last week – the first time they had been ranked in any poll since 2004.

But it’s hard to take a man seriously who would wear this sweater, let alone this program given its history.

Martin fared well at Kansas State and his decision to leave for South Carolina was curious. There are very few bad major conference jobs. South Carolina fits into that category. The Gamecocks haven’t won an NCAA tournament game since (gulp) 1973. The last time they were nationally relevant as a Final Four contender was in the late 1990s when South Carolina-based band Hootie and Blowfish was popular.

In 1997, as a No.2 seed, South Carolina famously lost to Coppin State. The following year, it was upset as a No. 3 seed to Richmond.

Of course, that has nothing to do with the current team. Still, it would be wise to take a wait-and-see attitude. South Carolina might not face a ranked team until it visits Texas A&M in early February.


About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.