Gamecock Football 2012 Best Case/Worst Case – Wins and Losses

Now that we’ve heard about the offense, defense, and special teams, I’m here to lay out for you the best and worse cases for the season in terms of wins and losses.  T-Bone and Buck know I’m pessimistic by nature, so the best case is going to be kind of hard for me.  As I am traditionally used to seasons where we struggle, writing about the worst case comes easy. 

Best Case10-2 regular season, 12-2 overall. I know that some folks want to go all 12-0 or 11-1 on us, but I’m going to be a bit more realistic and project a best case regular season record of 10-2.  Whammy comes through and proves to be at least as effective as Ellis.  Shaw protects the ball.  A couple of receivers, including Shaq Roland, emerge.  And Clowney and Devin Taylor create havoc all season long.

Projected Wins:  Vandy, ECU, UAB, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Wofford, CTU.  The Georgia and CTU wins are the sweetest of the bunch for obvious reasons.  After the UGA win, CMR decides to abandon his holier than thou persona and return to his true Miami alum colors.  He starts things off by declaring that no Bulldog player will ever be suspended again, under any circumstances.  Dabo takes the loss in stride and decides to petition the CTU Board of Trustees to remove us from their schedule, seeking to replace us with future ACC member, Coastal Carolina. 

Projected Losses:  LSU, Arkansas.  Baton Rouge with all those crazy drunk Cajuns is just too tough, and unlike Curly Hallman, Les Miles has a horseshoe permanently situated where the sun don’t shine.  Arky continues to have our number as they eke out a 27-24 victory in Columbia.  Later it is learned that Bobby Petrino was on the Arkansas sideline the whole game, disguised as a water boy.  A careful review of the video shows that John L. Smith was unusually thirsty throughout, especially when Arky was on offense.

This would put us at 6-2 in the SEC East with a win over Georgia.  Coupled with Georgia’s loss to Missouri this puts us back in the SEC Championship Game where we meet LSU again.  LSU plays atrocious offense (sound familiar?), and they don’t have Tyronne Mathieu…ok, the “Honey Badger”, to bail them out this time.  Adam Yates boots a 45-yard field goal as time expires and we escape with a 17-14 win.  Lattimore is the MVP after running for 215 yards on 45 carries.  He scores both TD’s on 4th down one-yard plunges.  So there it is, our first SEC Championship. 

We nonetheless finish 3rd in the BCS as both Oklahoma and Wisconsin (have you seen their schedules? an absolute joke) go undefeated.  We end up in the Sugar Bowl against Michigan — and beat them to a pulp. 

We get our first SEC Championship and BCS Bowl win.

Worst Case:  7-5 regular season, 7-6 overall.  Last year’s close wins become this year’s close losses.  Auguste never recovers and other injuries pile up on D.  Shaw’s scrambles are contained and he has to force the ball into tight zone coverages, not his strong suit.

Projected Wins:  Vandy, ECU, UAB, Missouri, Kentucky, Wofford, CTU.  Coach Boom figures it out on D and Florida beats us in an ugly 14-13 slugfest where most of the points result from turnovers and special teams blunders.  Murray and Bray light it up against a weakened Gamecock secondary. We predictably fall to LSU and Arkansas in ugly fashion. The only real bright spot of the season is another win over lowly CTU.

Projected Losses:  Georiga, LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida.  

With a 3-5 SEC record, we fall way down in the bowl pecking order.  We end up in the Music City Bowl against North Carolina State, another 7-5 team.  Uninspired and slowed by a large night in Nashville the night before, the Pack dispatch us by a score of 24-17.

So there you have it, the best and worst case scenarios for the 2012 Gamecock football team.  But just remember, we are mere bloggers, and the truth probably lies somewhere intertwined in our message.  

All I know is, right now, we’re undefeated.

Go Cocks! 

Do The Right Thing Penn St. — Suspend Football

The contents of the Freeh Report on Penn State have me pretty fired up.  The fact that the future state of the PSU football program is even being discussed at this point in time sickens me.

Penn St. should not wait around to see if the NCAA determines it has jurisdiction and, if so, what penalties it would impose.  Those pondering whether or not the NCAA can impose the death penalty or other penalties against the PSU football program are missing the much larger point, which is the fact that the transgressions committed by Sandusky and the powers who oversaw the football program concern matters much more important than college football and the rules that govern it.

Football is a game that we enjoy watching.  Child rape and the enabling of child rape is an offense so egregious and so incredibly heinous that it offends humanity itself.  To show that it understands that the preservation of its football program and the legacy of a coach pale in comparison to the duty of mankind to protect its children from horrific monsters, PSU should voluntarily, and immediately, shut the football program down for one season.

Such an action would show the public at large that PSU comprehends the enormity of the failures of its institution, and that it is willing to self-administer a sanction that symbolically demonstrates a sacrifice of the very thing the cover up was attempting to preserve.

After all, Penn St. is an institution of higher learning.  Shouldn’t an institution of higher learning faced with a crisis of this magnitude go to every length possible, even to extraordinary ones if necessary, to preserve its integrity, and its commitment to the population at large?  At this somber time, football should be the very least of the concerns of the people at Penn St.  To put what matters in perspective, PSU should take a self-imposed hiatus from football.

Anything less tells the world that they still don’t understand.

Reflections on the Beginning of a Baseball Dynasty

The Dogpile – A familiar sight the last three years.

For the past couple of days I’ve been struggling to come up with a post about the baseball team and what they have done.  Many excellent writers have written about the team and its mindboggling accomplishments:  back-to-back National Championships, three CWS Finals appearances in a row, the NCAA winning streak, the utter dominance of CTU on the diamond, etc.  Instead of a continued rehashing of all of the feats of the past three seasons (and the entire Ray Tanner era for that matter), I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture: 

What really happened here?  What did we witness?

Well, Gamecock fans, I am here to tell you that we witnessed (and are witnessing) a dynasty unlike anything we have ever seen as a fan base.  We are a program that has emerged from a decent history in baseball to become the unquestioned top program in the sport. 

I tried to come up with some comparisons of teams who became the best and were not a traditional powerhouse:  We are the equivalent of LSU’s baseball program in the 90s (trust me, it’s harder now than it was then).  We are the baseball equivalent of Miami football in the 80s (stay with me, I’m talking new dynasties-otherwise, we have nothing in common with them).  We are the basketball equivalent of UConn basketball (both men and women, to a certain extent).

Make no mistake, this is extremely rare air for us.  Aside from a very brief period in the 70s when the basketball team challenged the big boys, we’ve never even approached this level of excellence at anything.  Now, our baseball program is the simply the best in the country, and I challenge anyone to make a plausible argument otherwise (yes, Arizona, you won and deserved it, but we are talking about the overall program for a moment).   

Soak it up folks.  This is what it feels like.  We’ve always wondered what it would be like to be on top, to have everyone else aspiring to be like us.   Sure, I know it’s baseball and not football (or even basketball).  You know what I say to that?  So what.  Our fan base has long hungered for a big winner.  Now we have one.  And dag blastit, we deserve this.

Coach Tanner and the players have been profusely thanked and honored and they too deserve all the praise they are getting.  We at TRC join in.  Our only regret is that we didn’t get to dogpile.

Other stuff:  

I blame Aaron Fitt. A dynasty, yes, but we did not get to this point by beating up the opposition with overwhelming talent.  Instead, the program became the best by being the best at the little things:  pitching and defense.  We also benefitted from being the underdog.  I really think there’s something to the underdog thing. 

While I like Aaron Fitt and Baseball American a whole bunch, things were best for us when Aaron and his cohorts were picking us to lose to UCLA, to Florida, to UConn, and others.  Over the past few years I can’t remember those guys ever picking us to win a big game.  That changed when Fitt and John Manuel did their finals preview podcast last week. While Manual held true form and picked the more “talented” Arizona team, Fitt succumbed to the allure of the gritty Gamecocks and actually picked us to win. 

So, I blame Aaron Fitt for the loss.  It’s clearly his fault for upsetting the underdog karma.

The Shirt.  It didn’t always work, but it was uncanny how often my old South Carolina Baseball shirt has proven to make a difference.  Purchased at the Regionals or Super Regionals in 2002 (I think Buck was with me, but I’m not entirely sure), The Shirt has seen better days.  It’s faded and rotten around the collar.  Worn as an undershirt during important games (both Alabama wins come to mind), The Shirt has consistently produced for the Gamecocks.   

The Shirt

At a football tailgate last year I had the luck of running into Coach Tanner.  Less than fully sober and thinking that Ray surely wanted to hear about The Shirt and its vast powers, I proceeded to give him a viewing, holes and all.  While I thought it was pretty cool, Ray told me not to wash it but sort of looked at me like I was crazy.   

This post season I left The Shirt off until needed.  Put on right before the 5th inning against Florida, The Shirt produced 5 runs.  Put on in the 7th inning against Arizona in the final game, The Shirt produced the tying run.  Coupled with my ritual of watching TV when we hit and listening to the radio when we pitch and play defense (which worked like a champ the last two years), I thought The Shirt would get it done once again. 

Alas it wasn’t to be.  While The Shirt is undoubtedly the most powerful good luck charm out there besides the Avatar Spirit Stick, we at TRC would like to know what other items or rituals are out there that seemingly cause the Gamecocks to win. 

Do share.

They Can’t Beat Us

That’s what I yelled as I departed The Ray.  The CTU fans within earshot just kept on walking, heads down.

Wow, was that sure a fun weekend of baseball.  You would think it would sort of be ho-hum after the last two years, but it isn’t  — not by a long shot.  It’s never ho-hum to win a regional and to do it by spanking your rival.  Again.

[photo via http://www.gamecocksonline.com]

Game 1: It was epic, a true classic.  I had the (dis)pleasure of sitting in the CTU parents and girlfriends section for that one.  Man those are some annoying folks.  They pretty much whined and cried about everything.  I guess you could say the fans reflect the coach.  Oh well, on to the game…..

Roth did not have his best stuff, but great D made up for it.  Pankake’s backhand in the hole and throw to third being one example.  Others who stood out:  Rosenburg with several great stops on pitches in the dirt, and Marzilli with another great catch in center.  At for the hitters, I was personally very glad to see Adam Matthews have a big game.  Termed a “Tiger Killer” by Tommy Moody, Adam did not disappoint.  I had a great seat for the HR and the almost HR (how that did not go out, I’ll never know-it hit the top of the yellow line and bounced up).  While the crowd was pretty stunned after Vergason was tagged out in the 9th and after Matthew’s almost won it, there was a feeling in the air that we were gonna win.  The CTU fans pretty much shut it down in the extra frames-preparing themselves for the inevitable.  And there it was.  LB’s blast over Felder (the bat flipper punk) was pretty sweet. One down, one to go.

Game 2:  While lacking the drama of Game 1, this one proved to be big fun as well.  Sitting with the Gamecock faithful this time (and right under the Rooster-that’s one cool looking bird), it proved to be another day at the ballpark for this team.  After a mid-season slump, Freshman left-hander Jordan Montgomery did his best Michael Roth impression.  The kid was simply fantastic.  What impressed me most was how cool and collected he looked throughout the game.  And when Webb came in from the pen throwing strikes, I had the feeling that it was over.  Sure, we had a little excitement there in the 9th, but the crowd didn’t really seem that concerned.  A confidence, like nothing I have ever experienced, sort of gripped the stadium.  After all these years , I think we finally know what it feels like to be the absolute best at something.  Sure we may not win it all this year, but our baseball program is the best there is.  That’s what Game 2 felt like.

Random Observations:

I think Joey Pankake is becoming my favorite player on this team.  The dude rarely has a bad at bat and almost always hits the ball hard.  I think we are seeing a star in the making with that guy.  It sort of reminds me of watching Walker two years ago.  Get ready to enjoy the ride.

We have beaten CTU in the last 6 meaningful baseball games we have played against them.  They can say all they want about history and such, but we OWN them in baseball (and in pretty much everything else).  To be honest, I never thought I would see this day.

Ray Tanner always seems to push the right buttons.  It’s freakin uncanny.  In Game 1 the guy next to me couldn’t understand why he let Sullivan, a .177 hitter, bat in the 8th down one run with a runner in scoring position. When he said that, I had two thoughts:  1) Ray likes older players in big spots, 2) Ray was saving Kyle Martin, his last lefty bat, for the 9th.  Well, guess what happened….Martin pinch hit for English in the 9th and led off with a hit.  We tied the game and advanced to extras.

19 wins in a row in the NCAAs.  Back to my point about us being the best.  I’m gonna go our there and say that this is a streak that may never be broken.  Note to Athletic Department:  start looking for an artist to create the Ray Tanner statue.  Gonna need it.

Dietzel, McGuire and the ACC Exit: Credit Is Due

Frustrated by the North Carolina-centric nature of the conference, and what was seen as uncompetitive academic standards, South Carolina bolted from the ACC in 1971.  After wandering in the wilderness as an independent, and then as a member of the now-defunct Metro Conference, we were in the right place at the right time when the SEC was looking to expand in 1990.  As a lifelong Gamecock fan who came of age during the putrid Metro days, I can recall many who bemoaned our departure from the ACC as a stupid move by the USC administration at the time.  Well, guess who look like geniuses now?

Paul Dietzel and Frank McGuire, that’s who.

McGuire’s teams were the bad boys of the ACC.  They were street toughs from NYC who didn’t take crap from the “whine” and cheese crowd in the Tar Heel state.  After getting jobbed repeatedly by the conference powers, McGuire thought that enough was enough and lobbied to get his boys out of the ACC.

In football, a guy named Freddie Solomon was as dominant a high school player as anyone had ever seen.  But due to the ACC’s academic standards, which were more stringent that those of the NCAA, Freddie could not play at USC.  We all know what happened to Freddie. After a guy named Rice, he’s probably the next best receiver to ever play for the San Francisco 49ers.

When USC pulled out of the ACC, the strong rumor was that Clemson would also be leaving.  Supposedly it was a pact.  Turns out that CTU left us high and dry; instead, deciding to stay in the ACC after USC boldly (foolishly some say) stepped out as an independent.  I can remember some USC folks speaking with bitterness about the perceived double cross pulled off by CTU.  For years, you can bet that CTU thought they had really screwed us.  I hope they had a lot of fun while it lasted, because we are doing all, and I mean ALL the laughing now.

Sure, we sucked for the first few years we were in the SEC.  No doubt about it.  We weren’t ready to compete with the big boys and it was painfully obvious to just about anyone who watched.  We won a game or two here and there, but overall, we were overmatched.  But guess what else was happening while we took our lumps?  The Gamecocks were getting paid, and paid well.

The SEC, unlike some other conferences, is basically an equal pay out league.  While UT, Bama, and LSU were winning championships and raking in the dough for the conference, Carolina was building its war chest.  The SEC also brought credibility.  With credibility came coaches like Ray Tanner, Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier.  And now, after a long period of paying dues, some success has started to roll in (See Buck Sweep, Golden Age Edition).  No more are we the throw-in team needed to get the SEC to 12.  Now we are legit.

Former Head Coach/AD Paul Dietzel

During our time in the SEC, the national landscape has changed considerably.  The SEC is now the unquestioned powerhouse conference in America.  And there’s a HUGE gap between first and second.  Oh, and where does our former conference, the ACC, now rank?  Maybe 5th.  And that’s on a good day.

With conference realignment in full swing, the SEC just strengthened its brand by bringing in TAMU and Missouri.  The ACC?  They now proudly call Syracuse and Pittsburgh members.  That’s right, the ACC is now looking a lot like the former Big East of a few years ago.  And we all know that the Big East (Least) sucks, big time.

Last week’s announcement of the new SEC/BIG 12 Champions Bowl is yet another crushing blow to everyone not a member of the four power conferences.  The message sent by the SEC to the ACC football schools was loud and clear:  we have the ball and we ain’t kicking it to you.  Meanwhile, CTU and its fans desperately want OUT of the ACC and into the Big 12 (or the SEC).  They used to whisper about this while still singing the praises of the ACC in public.

Well, no more.  Visit a CTU message board sometime for your viewing pleasure.  Those guys are now openly begging for a chance to bolt from the ACC.  While publicly stating that they still have the upper hand in football, they are now privately admitting that the power ($$) of the SEC has taken its toll.  They cringe when they think about the losses to USC and how those losses have occurred – old-style SEC beat downs.

So, I want to take this opportunity to thank Coach Dietzel and Coach McGuire.  Without their guts and vision, we might still be in the ACC and might (like CTU) be on the outside looking in as the world of college athletics is remade.

Because of these men, we have a seat at the table – and the food is tasting pretty darn good.

Big Thanks to Baseball America (Again)

"Sure he's good, but he's not GOOD good if you know what we mean." - Baseball America (probably)

Baseball America’s Preseason 2012 College All-Star Teams are out and guess who’s NOT on the First, Second, or Third teams?  That’s right – two time College World Series hero, 2011 National ERA leader (1.10), and post-season BA first-team All-American, Michael Roth.

Based on these opening sentences, you would think that we at TRC are miffed by this obvious omission.  Well, think again.  We follow BA pretty closely and think a lot of Aaron Fitt and their college baseball coverage.  We really do.  That said, we are thanking BA for yet again giving Roth and the Gamecock baseballers some motivation.

Sure, BA came up with an entirely new category of featured players call “Roth Stars,” headlined by none other than – you guessed it – Michael Roth.  These “Roth Stars” are guys BA considers great college baseball players but not “top propects.”

Well, there it is again.  While Roth is a “great” pitcher, he’s not a “top prospect” in the eyes of BA.  This line of thinking by BA is oh-so-familiar around here, and quite frankly just what the Doctor ordered.

I remember a couple of years ago when Blake Cooper was left off all of BA’s post season All-America teams while guys like Drew Pomeranz (First Team) and Gerrit Cole (Second Team)  were selected.  What happened next?  Well, I think we all remember Blake beating UCLA (with Cole on the mound, no less) on three days rest in Game 1 of the CWS Finals. (Oh, for good measure Cooper out dueled Pomeranz as the Gamecocks beat Ole Miss in a masterpiece earlier that season.)

That CWS performance, as well as the 2010 National Championship by the Gamecocks, were chalked up by BA as gritty overachievements by a team of only modest talent.  In 2011, there was more of the same from BA.  Sure, the Gamecocks were pretty good, but the talent at UVA, Vanderbilt, and Florida (whoa, those STUDS at Florida) was going to be too much.

Even UConn was considered by BA to be superior to the 2011 Gamecocks.  I remember listening to a BA Super Regional Preview podcast where Fitt and John Manuel couldn’t resist picking the uber-talented Huskies with future first-rounder George Springer and some 6-6 pitcher who threw something like 150 mph over the “good” but “at the end of the line” Gamecocks.  (Lest you guys forgot, the Cocks swept Springer and his mates).

In the 2011 CWS, BA continued to fawn over anyone not in a Gamecock uniform.  After all, UVA, with BA’s All-American Boy Danny Hultzen, was on our side of the bracket.  There was no way we were going to come out of it.

“Nice work Gamecocks, but here’s where you get off” was the attitude of the BA guys.   Of course, BA foresaw a UVA-Florida final since those teams (like UCLA the year before with Cole and ESPN Wunderkind Trevor “I’m the Greatest But I Never Pitched” Bauer) had all the “top prospects.”  Well, after disposing of UVA, the scrappy, David-like Gamecocks slew the Goliath-like Gators  in two games (including one with Mr. Less than Top Prospect Michael Roth on the mound).  So much for those BA prognostications.

We realize that the Gamecock baseball program has gotten some love.  Heck, BA featured Roth on the cover of its season preview magazine.  Thanks BA, but thanks also for continuing to devalue the Gamecocks on occasion.  This team seems to thrive on the notion that the establishment continues to doubt the ability of guys like Roth (there’s no mention of Matt Price either).

BA and others get all caught up in “measurables” and “draftability” when picking All-Star teams.  What writers sometimes overlook are the intangibles like desire, work ethic, and attitude that make a good player into a great player.  Remember that First-team BA All-American Mark Zunino sailed a key throw into center field last year in Game 1 of the CWS Finals.  Compare that to the stellar defense played by the “no names” on the Gamecock roster.  Guys like Wingo, Beary, and Williams.

So, thank you BA for lumping Roth in on the “Roth Stars”, while including some guy from Duke who won 3 games last year compared to Roth’s 12 on your AA team.  It’s ok.  It really is.  The Gamecock baseball team needs to remain anti-establishment as long as it can.  That’s our edge.  It’s what sets us apart.

Oh, and here’s hoping that Greg Maddux has a son one day who looks kind of scrawny and doesn’t throw too hard. Could be our future #1 starter.

New TRC Feature: Exclusive Recruiting Reports From Bill Cornflute

Editor’s Note:  TRC is pleased to announce that Bill Cornflute, known to all Palmetto State football fans as our very own recruiting guru, has agreed to begin sharing inside and exclusive recruiting news, otherwise known as “poop,” to our blog.  We are glad to welcome the well-respected Mr. Cornflute to the TRC family.  Below is Cornflute’s first inside and exclusive report to TRC readership.  And remember, you got this scoop here and no place else.  No one except you, and I mean no one (and that includes Clark, Newburg, Wallace, Lemming, Shurburtt, Hood, Morrell, and countless other recruitniks), has this info.  With Cornflute’s help, we are now the razor sharp part of the cutting edge.

Recruiting Report 1-23-12

By Bill Cornflute

Flip-flopper and Mulletarian Gunner Kiel

Breaking News:  Elite 11 QB Prospect and super competitive Gunner Kiel has withdrawn from Notre Dame and re-opened his recruitment-again.  After previously committing to Indiana, LSU, and Notre Dame, Kiel has decided that he wants to set the all time record for broken commitments during a recruiting season.  Upon learning that former Auburn star QB Cam Newton decommitted from five different schools during the recruiting process, Kiel has announced plans that he will commit and then de-commit to at least four more schools before signing day.  I asked Kiel why he was planning for four de-commits instead of three when three would set the record.  Kiel’s reply:  “I’m a super competitive guy.  If I go ahead and do it four more times, that sets the bar pretty high for the next guy.  I like to set records and hope I can establish one that lasts for a while.”  When asked which schools he plans to spurn next, Kiel replied:  “I’m thinking Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Stanford, and Georgia.  Those schools have produced some pretty good QB’s.  It will be fun to screw with their fan bases a little.”  When asked where he will ultimately end up playing next year after setting the de-commitment record, Kiel was, predictably, non-committal:  “I’m not really sure at this point.  There are so many possibilities out there — so many people looking for stories.  I might just keep this going for a while.”

2018 RB prospect Skyler “Pee Wee” Thompson of Atlanta, a member of the ESPN Pre-Teen Phenoms,  is drawing early attention from multiple SEC and ACC programs.  Surprisingly strong for a player measuring in at 5-2, 110 pounds, Thompson has been known to lift his friend Felix (nicknamed “Bigun”) clear off the ground when playing “Tackle the Man with the Ball” with the neighborhood kids.  Quick and nimble, Pee Wee is almost never “it” when the group plays “Manhunt” in the back yard.  Pee Wee is a Pop Warner legend, having rushed for almost 900 yards in his flag football career.   Clemson, Auburn and Tennessee have expressed some early interest in Thompson.  When pressed about his recruiting (we had to pull him away from a spirited game of Mario Cart to take our call), Pee Wee claimed to having no favorites and played things close to the vest:  “It’s still pretty early in the process.  I want to take all my visits and see what each school has to offer.  For starters, the school I choose has gotta have lots of pizza and chicken nuggets at the training table.  And eggs.  And pancakes.  I love pancakes.”

I’ll be back next week with more insider info from the recruiting trail.

bill

Basketball Fans: Be Careful What You Wish For

As a self-appointed “basketball guy” and long time season ticket holder, my brethren here on the blog usually look to me to weigh in on what has undoubtedly become the third most popular sport amongst the fan base. Lucky me.   As I’m sure you readers would rather read about 2015 football recruiting than our basketball team, my challenge is to hold your attention, if even only for a few minutes.

Well, we pull no punches here at TRC.  I’m going to say some things here that need to be said, and I want to make one thing clear:  THESE COMMENTS ARE DIRECTED TO THOSE VOCAL FANS  THAT WANTED COACH ODOM TO BE FIRED.

I remember it all very clearly.  They said Odom couldn’t recruit.  Sure, he had Devin and Zam on the roster, but he didn’t actually SIGN those guys, they transferred in.  No matter that he DID SIGN Ro Balkman (NBA), Tarrance Kinsey (NBA), Sam Muldrow (diamond in the rough), Tre Kelley (scoring machine), Dominique Archie (budding star before injury), Mike Holmes (flawed but major talent) and Carlos Powell (tremendous heart and post moves), among others.  Sure, some of those guys were nice players (again, they said), but they weren’t going to win The Big Dance for you.

Carlos Powell: What we wouldn't give for a guy like this on our team...

Well, let me ask the bloodthirsty “Fire Odom” crowd now:  wouldn’t you kill for a dynamic scorer like Tre Kelley or Devin Downey running the point, or for a Carlos Powell or Sam Muldrow making an actual post move in the paint?  Wouldn’t you just love to see an athlete like Balkman or Archie finishing an alley oop?  Well, we’re not seeing any of that now.

Not even close.

No, Odom – with his two NIT titles and mostly competitive teams – was not good enough for the fans.  They remembered the glory days of the McGuire years and felt that they deserved better.  After all, in the late 60’s and early 70’s we were a national basketball power! (Sound familiar?  Did anyone notice the CTU fan holding up the 81 national championship sign during the 2012 Orange Bowl?)

Now, did I absolutely love Odom as a coach?  Not especially; but I understood the state of our program and realized that he was as good a coach that we could expect to have under the circumstances.  The guy knew the game and had previously achieved success in the toughest conference in America.  All in all, I thought he did a pretty good job based on the recruits available to him.

Did he reach for some guys who couldn’t play? Sure he did. Did he lose to CTU too often? No doubt.  But what Odom did accomplish was the continuation (after Fogler) of program that was respected within the conference and that actually had a modicum of respect nationally.  Odom had name recognition as the guy who discovered and developed Tim Duncan, and Odom had enough credibility that he was able to persuade a supreme talent like Downey to transfer to USC when he probably would have been welcomed by almost any team in the ACC.

Now, we are pretty much a laughing stock, with losses this season to Elon and Tennessee State, and a mostly empty Colonial Life Arena for home games.  Want to know how we stack up nationally? Check out our basketball page on ESPN.com and look at our horrifying national rankings in scoring, rebounding, assists and and field goal percentage. Be glad if you missed the halftime comments made by national commentator Doug Gottlieb (I’m not a fan, BTW) when we played UNC earlier this year.

Instead of sticking with Odom (remember, he left with Downey, Frederick, Holmes, Archie, and Muldrow ON the roster), he was forced out and we decided to go with Darrin Horn, the young gun with the hair.  The Odom bashers had won.  The boring and underachieving veteran was out, and the up and coming WKU coach (who after all, had gotten to one Sweet 16) was in.  In case you have forgotten, Horn won 10 games in the SEC and 21 overall with the players he inherited from Odom.  In other words, the cupboard was pretty well stocked with groceries. Instead, we started over with a new chef who had his own recipes.

This change is what the fans wanted, what they “deserved.”  Now really, what exactly do we “deserve” as USC basketball fans?  Despite an amazing  run under McGuire and an SEC title under Fogler, our storied program has won exactly one NCAA tournament game in its history, and I think that was a consolation game.  As far as basketball tradition goes, we don’t have much. Not much at all.  With this as our reality (again, this sounds strangely familiar), a large segment of our fans cling to the belief that we should be able to reenter the national basketball scene with ease.  The thinking is that the right coach is all we need.

Sadly, sports fans, it’s not 1971 anymore.   While it may be a little easier to quickly achieve upward mobility in basketball as compared to football, the same basic principles apply in most cases.  The teams with tradition (i.e., Kentucky, UNC, Kansas, Duke) usually win and win big on a consistent basis.  For the most part, these programs don’t recruit, they select.  While some of these schools have good coaches as well, a trained monkey could probably sit on the bench and win 20 games with some of their rosters.  After the traditional elites, there’s a group of teams that have been good for quite some time and are close to achieving elite status: UConn, Syracuse, Gonzaga, and Michigan State being examples.  When examining this second group, one thing stands out:  coaching stability.  These schools have stuck with coaches, year and year through thick and thin.  After the elites and emerging elites, there’s everybody else.  The everybody elses of the world try various methods to break into the next group.  Some cheat (Tennessee, Florida, Oklahoma) while others hire and fire at will.

USC falls under the hire and fire category and is learning the hard way that Horn and company are not the quick fix some wanted him to be.  Instead of taking steps forward, we have taken giant steps backwards.  I would venture to say that none of our current starting five could start for the team that Horn inherited from Odom.  And this is after four years.

Folks need to understand that it is very, very hard to win consistently in basketball at USC.  Realize that the SEC in basketball is the equivalent of the ACC in football.  The stud players from our neighboring states wouldn’t dream of coming here to play basketball (just imagine Clowney signing with NC State last year if you don’t understand my point).  Meanwhile, too many of the great players our state produces are leaving for greener pastures (i.e., Raymond Felton to UNC).  Also understand that Horn has signed most of the highly rated players in the state during his time at USC (Ellington, Slawson, Leonard).  That should tell us something about the talent pool we are working with.

The only way we will ever achieve success in basketball will be to build a program step by step (see baseball, see football).  Would Odom have eventually broken through with that coveted NCAA win?  Perhaps not, but we’ll never know.  Can Horn get there?  It looks unlikely, but we will probably never get this answer either, because let’s face it, Darrin Horn is a goner.

The fans, with their lack of support for the program, have spoken.

Rumored 2012 Schedule Proves USC Still the Redheaded Stepchild of the SEC

One might think that after 20 years of SEC membership, and (somewhat) steady athletic progress, that the University of South Carolina would have earned a little respect; that we would be able to exert  just a small amount of influence when it comes to things that impact the success of  our sports program.  Well Gamecock fans, if the rumors about 2012 football scheduling are true, we aren’t even close on the respect or influence fronts.  Very much to the contrary, it’s abundantly clear that we are still the red (garnet?) headed stepchild of the SEC.

The So-Called Facts:  Based on unofficial reports, our 2012 schedule will include a game against our still permanent Western Division opponent Arkansas, and a previously scheduled game against LSU.  LSU is replacing Auburn on the rotating schedule while Missouri comes on board as a permanent Eastern Division foe (in place of Mississippi State, our other 2011 rotating opponent-who was scheduled to visit Columbia prior to expansion).  In contrast to this, UGA, our chief Eastern Division rival at the present, is strongly rumored to be retaining Ole Miss as its rotating Western opponent (the 2011 equivalent of Mississippi State to us-as these schools played in 2011), while its previously scheduled home and home rotation against ALABAMA is being dropped.  Meanwhile, UGA retains its games against its permanent Western Division opponent Auburn.  In summary, we get ARKANSAS and LSU.  Georgia gets auburn and mississippi.

The Screw Job:  While our home and home against Mississippi State is cut off in midstream, UGA’s home and home against Ole Miss is preserved.  In return, we get LSU and UGA avoids Alabama.   Call us TRC guys crazy (and many people do) but we see some home cooking here for the Dogs.  Following a year where they somehow skirted Alabama, Arkansas AND LSU (due to pure luck), the schedule  appears to be working out so that they miss them ALL again in 2012 (due to something other than luck).  Instead of playing perennial power Alabama coached by a guy named Saban, they get the absolute worst team in the entire SEC (with apologies to Kentucky) coached by a guy named Freeze (who, I must admit, had never heard of until they hired him).  Now ain’t that as sweet as a Georgia Peach.

This is supposedly all being done so Missouri, the new kid on the block, can secure a marquee opening game against Georgia to kick off their entry into the league.  Gee, SEC brass, thanks for taking care of Mizzou.  That down home Southern hospitality really makes us feel better. 

Well, we don’t buy for one second that this is being done for Missouri.  It’s pretty clear to us that this has nothing to do with the Tigers to the north and a lot to do with the fact that we currently have our best team ever – something that evidently does not sit too well with the ruling elite of the SEC (don’t forget that Bama also gets to avoid Georgia, whom we grudgingly admit is back on track) and those folks who run college football nowadays (i.e., ESPN).  With Florida and Tennessee “down”, a powerful Georgia is theoretically better for business than an upstart like us.  Therefore, the wheels went in motion and we ended up with LSU while Georgia got Ole Miss.

The USC Response:  Evidently nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  As one of my TRC cohorts tweeted:  “It appears that Eric Hyman took a banana to a knife fight.”

The TRC Response:  ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING US?  Let’s be honest.  Most of  us rational fans realize that we are currently in a window of opportunity that may not appear again for quite some time – if ever.  Steven Orr Spurrier is our football coach while Dooley, Jr. (still has the training wheels on) and a guy willingly called “Boom” coach UT and Florida, respectively.  Now is our chance to supplant Tennessee in the East.  Florida will rise again, it’s just a matter of time.  With the state of Georgia to recruit, UGA can’t help but be decent every year.  

Due to a certain set of unique circumstances South Carolina has the chance to become an upper echelon (top six) SEC program.  The only way to accomplish this is by winning, and winning in a such a way that forces others to take notice.  Otherwise, the national media folks will continue to give ink to the traditional powers, as that’s what sells to most casual fans. 

Without national attention and the perception that we are an upwardly mobile program, the top recruits outside SC will continue to look elsewhere.  And at the end of the day, winning football games is about having better players than the other guys.  Make no mistake about it, this scheduling business is about the preservation of power and the ultimate delivery of dollars to outstretched hands. 

We at TRC were always of the opinion that expansion, no matter how it was sliced, was bad for USC.  If this colossal screw job actually takes place, there’s a more than a decent chance that UGA will waltz to Atlanta once again. Even if we beat them. Again.

The Beat Goes On: USC Defeats CTU in Men’s Hoops

Following up on the football team’s beat down of CTU last week, the basketball team kept the ball rolling against the Tigers with a 59-56 road victory yesterday afternoon.  Before we reflect on the game, let’s take a minute to review the performance of our major men’s sports teams against our “rivals” from the upstate during 2011:

  • Baseball – check (won season series, again) 
  • Football – check (see aforementioned beat down reference)
  • Basketball – check and mate 

That’s right, I said basketball.  After losing to the likes of Elon and Tennessee State in the early season, things didn’t look good for Darrin Horn’s young charges entering the game at Littlejohn.  In fact, I think most Gamecock fans (let’s be honest, all Gamecock fans) pretty much chalked this one up as a L.  Having just whipped the Tigers in football, most of us were fairly content with things, and were resigned to the fact that beating CTU on the road was basically an impossible task for what has appeared (again, let’s be honest) to be a bad, bad basketball team. 

Well, shame on us.  Someone forgot to tell Bruce Ellington and the rest of our guys that they weren’t supposed to win.  In what was an ugly basketball game from both sides, the Gamecocks made the plays down the stretch and managed to pull out the win.  Big shots in the final couple of minutes by Anthony Gill and Eric Smith, and a strong overall game from Demontre Harris, propelled the Gamecocks to victory.  This win gives guard/wide receiver Ellington two wins over CTU in eight days (h/t to willy_t_smith on Twitter for this tidbit), a feat likely unparalleled in the history of the “rivalry.”

We at TRC would like to give a shout out to Coach Horn’s wife Carla for her enthusiasm and support of the team.  Carla got lots of  TV face time late in the game and seemed to will the ball into the hoop when the Gamecocks were shooting critical free throws down the stretch. 

Here’s hoping that this victory can serve to energize this young team into some improved play.  There are definitely some positives to build on:  our lead guard (and unquestioned leader) is back; Gill is a player with obvious high D-1 skills who can play inside and outside; Harris is capable of being an effective SEC post presence-especially on D; and Malik Cooke has shown himself capable of shouldering the scoring load on occasion.

But let’s get back to the “rivalry”…..

This victory gives that Gamecocks a season sweep of baseball (season series), football, and basketball for the second consecutive year.  We at TRC find this very satisfying to say the least.  At this rate, we may want to rethink the “rivalry” term.  Looks more like a “domination” to us. 

Just sayin’.