The South Carolina Gamecocks had never gotten as far as the Elite Eight until this month. Now they're in the Final Four as the No. 7 seed from the East region. They are the story of this NCAA tournament.
The Gamecocks aren't that low a seed, but they still qualify as a Cinderella. In addition to its lack of deep tournament runs, South Carolina has a lack of tournament appearances, period. This year's bid was the program's first since 2004 and fifth since 1974. The Gamecocks have missed out on March altogether almost every year, and they've never experienced anything remotely like this. That they've gotten this far is a wonderful story on its own.
They'd like to win six games in this tournament, not four. They'll face Gonzaga in a national semifinal on Saturday, trying to keep their incredible run going for a few more days. They're an underdog, but by now, they're used to it.
Defense. Just about everything about it.
The Gamecocks have the country's No. 2 defense by adjusted efficiency, only behind Gonzaga. They keep opponents to less than 0.9 points per possession and about 65 per game. They force a lot of turnovers – about one every four possessions – and close out quickly on shooters. Their field goal defense ranks near the top of Division I, and they're tenacious about denying space for three-point shooters. Florida was 7-of-26 from deep when USC beat it in the Elite Eight, and Baylor was a painful 3-of-13 the game before that.
Offense. Just about everything about it.
The Gamecocks aren't horrible when they have the ball, but if their defense were as good as their offense, they wouldn't even be an NIT team. They'll be outclassed on that end of the court by every team they face the rest of the way. Then, that's been the case for the first four games of their tournament run, too, so it's not like they can't overcome it.
The Gamecocks are pretty good at offensive rebounding and avoiding turnovers, but they're not great at anything else. The primary exception is star guard Sindarius Thornwell, who averages an efficient 21 points per game and was the SEC's player of the year. Thornwell's had an excellent tournament through the regional rounds.