The Daily Gamecock

Remembering 2017: When Gamecocks ruled college basketball world

In March 2017, the University of South Carolina was a basketball school. 

The men's basketball team, led by head coach Frank Martin,  defeated blue-blood Duke, Baylor and conference rival Florida to earn its first-ever trip to the Final Four. The women's basketball team, led by Dawn Staley, won its first-ever national championship over Mississippi State, 67-55.

The men's basketball journey to the Final Four began with upsetting the No. 2 seed Duke Blue Devils in the second round in Greenville, South Carolina. Fourth-year marketing and risk management student Reid O'Brien attended the game with his dad.

 "[A]s it started to look more and more like we’d hold our late lead, it felt like I was floating," O'Brien said in an email interview. "I was ecstatic."

Following the upset against Duke, students in Columbia stormed the Thomas Cooper Library and Five Points fountains. Fourth-year finance and marketing student Mike Casey went to the fountain in Five Points.

"Oh man, when we beat Duke I could have ran through a brick wall twice," Casey said in an email interview. "That moment [at the Five Points fountain] was better than any football game we've had here, and that's saying something."

In the Sweet 16, South Carolina men's basketball continued its Cinderella run and defeated No. 3 seed Baylor, 70-50. Soon after, it beat Florida 77-70 in the Elite Eight and would move on to its first-ever Final Four appearance.

When South Carolina earned its trip to the Final Four, students rushed to the fountain to celebrate again. Fourth-year economics and geography student Tanner Reagle was there.

"[W]e all rushed out and jumped in the fountain," Reagle said in an email interview. "That was my favorite memory. Our dorm was basically in the fountain that day." 

O'Brien was also at the fountain following the victory over Florida.

"[I was] screaming my head off and realizing that I wasn't dreaming," O'Brien said. "I definitely cried and I wasn't ashamed of it."

The women's basketball team lifted its first National Championship trophy a day after the men's team played in the Final Four.

A day after the men's team lost to Gonzaga 77-73, students were back at the fountains again.

"Electricity," Casey said, describing the championship. "[E]veryone everywhere was going nuts. Literally everywhere in Five Points was packed ... There has not been an experience here like it in my 4 years."

O'Brien said the championship was a stepping stone.

"Surreal ... [It] felt like a big weight was being lifted off of our program's shoulders," O'Brien said. "[W]inning finally proved that coach Staley has elevated this program to new heights."

The 2016-17 basketball season will go down in South Carolina history as the most successful duo-season the program has had to date.

"[Y]ou had to be a USC student/alum to understand the full grasp of it," Casey said.