I don't know what to say.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I was 100% certain South Carolina was going to get into the NCAA Tournament, because I wasn't. I was worried about our strength of schedule and our recent loss to Georgia in the SEC Tournament. I thought there were certain scenarios in which a case could be made, by an unbiased viewer, that South Carolina shouldn't be in the field - depending on what other teams they slotted ahead of us.
Having gotten that out of the way, there is no reasonable explanation for Vanderbilt, Syracuse and Tulsa getting into the NCAA Tournament and South Carolina being left out. None. Don't try to search for one because it doesn't exist.
I'm not usually a "blame outside sources for your own team's demise" kind of guy. I hate blaming refs and I try to be fair in my analysis. No one likes a sore loser. But South Carolina got robbed. There is nothing else you can say. We got robbed.
The tournament committee penalized a 24-8 SEC team due to their non-conference schedule to the degree that it made losing games to prominent teams more important than winning. That is a travesty and it's why Vanderbilt is in. They played a tougher non-conference schedule than South Carolina did. Never mind the fact that they lost all of those games and then lost to the Gamecocks head-to-head. Oh, and lost to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament without Kevin Punter. Vanderbilt had a worse SEC Tournament loss, a worse SEC record, five less wins, consistently underachieved all year long and, of course, got beat by South Carolina. But they got in. It must be nice to get invited to the Maui Invitational, huh?
Syracuse is 19-13, lost to St. John's and Clemson, and their RPI is the lowest of any team to ever make the tournament. The committee has already said they took into account the fact that they didn't have Jim Boeheim for the first nine games of the season when looking at their resume. NEWSFLASH: They didn't have their coach because he CHEATED!!!! And then they lost five of their last six games with him. Sure, they beat Duke. South Carolina beat Texas A&M on the road and they are a higher seed than Duke. How does this make sense? Because their name is Syracuse, that's right.
Tulsa doesn't even compute. There is no explanation. Not a single bracketologist in the nation had them in the tournament field. Not one. Their own players didn't think they had a chance. I can't accurately put into words how little sense Tulsa being in the tournament over South Carolina makes. Joe Lunardi of ESPN called it "indefensible by any conceivable standard." They lost to the University of Arkansas - Little Rock, Oral Roberts, Memphis twice (the second time by 22 points) and, you guessed it, South Carolina. Not to mention they had four less wins.
I have no words.
For what it's worth, South Carolina fans aren't the only ones saying we got screwed. The vast majority of people around the country, some from teams who would normally pull against the Gamecocks, agree that Frank Martin and co. got shafted.
South Carolina is the first major conference 24 win team in history to be left out of the NCAA tournament. Sickening. #Gamecocks— Patrick Clancy (@impatrickclancy) March 13, 2016
South Carolina beat Tulsa by 8 on a neutral floor... Also beat Memphis, which just beat Tulsa by 22. But Tulsa gets in.— Matt Connolly (@MattatTheState) March 13, 2016
After two years of poor AAC evaluations, Committee has gone too far the other way. Tulsa may be the biggest... https://t.co/OmftPEsCia— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) March 13, 2016
Again, on Friday this team was in. Every projection, every expert. There was no question. One loss apparently did irreparable damage.— David Cloninger (@DCTheState) March 13, 2016
Top 50 RPI wins for SC: Texas A&M. Just outside top 50: Hofstra 54, Florida 55, TULSA 58. But hey, Tulsa had 4 top 50! Way more important.— Heath Cline (@heathradio) March 13, 2016
I feel for South Carolina. Gamecocks’ non-conference schedule wasn’t supposed to be as bad as it ended up looking. Not totally their fault.— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) March 13, 2016
Syracuse should be under a post-season ban, but because they are basketball royalty they are in the tournament while S. Carolina stays home.— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) March 13, 2016
There's no way to make this not hurt. We were an 8-seed lock on Thursday. When you're this close and then have the door slammed in your face in exchange for less attractive suitors, it's painful. At this point all we can do is realize that at the start of the year a 24-8 season is something all of us would have said was impossible. This team has overachieved by every imaginable standard and they need our support now more than ever. We need to cheer this team on in the NIT. It won't be easy but we owe it to those guys for what they have done this season.
This is a gut punch, but this program is still building and are ahead of schedule. That doesn't mean this doesn't hurt, but keep heart in knowing that Frank Martin and our basketball program are just getting started.