Today, for the first time since 1999, the NCAA Baseball Tournament is beginning without the Gamecocks in it. That has me thinking about Gamecock teams that could have, or even should have, accomplished more than they did. So, along those lines, what game represents the biggest missed opportunity in South Carolina's athletic history? You can choose from any sport and feel free to go crazy revising history to explain what happens after we win instead of lose the game you chose.
Tennessee 2013. A very avoidable loss to a team that finished 5-7 prevented us from reaching the SEC Championship game. Remember we were fresh off an utter demolition of Arkansas so both spirits and expectations were high. I kept waiting for this game to break our way, but it never did. While we'd follow this dud with one of the more memorable games in program history and would go on to win out that season, our second trip to the SEC Championship game was not to be.
Because I'm assuming someone else is taking the 2011 Auburn game and the 1984 Navy game, I'll talk about the worst hardwood loss of my lifetime - the 2006 SEC Tournament championship game loss to Florida.
The eventual national champions faced off with the upstart South Carolina Gamecocks in Nashville with Florida having nothing but pride (and well, a conference title) to play for while USC needed a victory to go dancing.
Despite the fact it didn't make the tournament, this was Odom's best USC team. They played a very challenging schedule and lost so many close games against good teams - an overtime neutral loss to a very good Marquette team, an embarrassing loss at Clemson, a tough loss at Temple and a close home loss to a very good Pittsburgh. In the SEC East there were four other good teams and Georgia - somehow, we managed to get swept by the Bulldogs on our way to a 15-14 (6-10) regular season.
But in Nashville the Gamecocks destroyed a porous Mississippi State team and grabbed two close but deserved wins over Tennessee and Kentucky to set up the final.
The Gamecocks did so many good things against the eventual national champions, who included Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, and Joakim Noah. They played a slow - 58 possession - game and limited the Gators to just 0.87 points per possession, the best mark against Florida the entire season. The next best? 0.97 points per possession, a full 0.1 more (that's a massive difference on a ppp level).
We took 19 more field goal attempts and four more free throws - that's 23 extra chances to score - thanks to an 18-9 turnover advantage and a 14-4 offensive rebounding advantage.
But, the Gamecocks managed to shoot just 36% from 2 (understandable against that defense), 22% from 3, and just 63% from the free throw line. They lost 49-47, and went on to win the NIT, which, whatever.
Odom could've built on the appearance and it would've given us a great season and a banner in a year that otherwise just gave us another, semi-embarrassing, NIT championship banner to hang up. Instead, we played Keving Palacios for 8 minutes.
I hate this game so, so much.
Jorge, I feel the pain. Riding high off that Arkansas game, I took the trip to Knoxville thinking the win was a given. And the weekend was off too a good start. UT students were on Fall Break, so I didn't have to deal with too many cream crush mountain men screaming Rocky Top in my ear. And it surprisingly wasn't that hard to accept the repeated infomercial displayed on monitors inside Neyland Stadium persuading me to purchase 50 hours of Peyton Manning highlights. Even after a lethargic first half, my hopes remained high.
But I have to go with the LSU football game in 2012. The team was riding an all-time high after beating the dawgs bad, jumping out of the gates at 6-0 and number three in the national polls. For the first time in my life I thought we were going to play for a national championship. My stress level during that LSU game was something I've never really experienced before as every possession seemed like our chance to finally break through and beat a national power like LSU on the road. It was our toughest opponent to date, and the second game of a three game gauntlet set to define the season. I thought if we could just beat Tigers at night in Baton Rouge nothing was going to stop us. And we got real close to doing so. We somehow battled our way into the fourth quarter with a 14-10 lead before Les shed some late night voodoo to steal a win. We all regretfully remember was ensued next week in The Swamp, and while the season ended with a school record 11 victories, something just didn't seem right. Had we won, 44-11 never would've happened.
Well James took my answer. I will always believe that when that 2012 team was at their best they were elite. We could've beaten Alabama in the SEC Championship game and I know we could've beaten that Notre Dame team in the National Championship.
But since he's already expanded on that one a bit, I'll go with the 2011 Auburn game that Hoops mentioned. From a personal standpoint, this is easily one of the most miserable games I've ever attended. While I've been to a handful of games that were rowdy or ugly in one way or another, the atmosphere at the end of this games was probably the nastiest I've been in. There was a lot of frustration directed at the team as poor play prevented us from having our revenge on an Auburn team that had beaten us twice the season before. The Tigers scored to take a 16-13 lead with less than two minutes left in the game and though the Gamecocks got back down within field goal range, they ran out of time. There was some controversy about whether the clock should have stopped with time for a field goal to send it to overtime, but at the end of the day the Gamecocks shouldn't have been in the position of needing overtime to win that game anyway. Winning this game would have meant another trip to the SECCG for the Gamecocks and while 2011 was still a great season in most ways, not making a trip back to Atlanta was a huge missed opportunity.