South Carolina’s women’s basketball team is now the top-ranked hoops squad in all the Carolinas, a prestigious title for a program south of Tobacco Road.
The Gamecocks (23-2) were ranked No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, rising one spot and jumping Duke. The Blue Devils (22-3), who lost to No. 11 North Carolina last week, fell to from third to No. 7 in the poll.
Duke’s men’s basketball team is the second-highest ranked basketball program in the Carolinas, slotted at No. 5 in the AP poll.
South Carolina rose from No. 5 this week after beating LSU 73-57 on Sunday. The blowout was USC’s first victory in Baton Rouge since 1994.
Undefeated UConn once against sits atop the rankings, followed by undefeated Notre Dame. Louisville rose to No. 3, while Stanford rounded out the top 5.
South Carolina was also slotted as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme. If the selection committee goes this route for next month’s tournament, the Gamecocks would travel across the country to Seattle for their first two NCAA games, and the Sweet 16 would be held in Lincoln, Neb.
Sindarius Thornwell is a repeat winner of the SEC Freshman of the Week award.
South Carolina’s freshman guard earned the recognition Monday for the second time this season after leading the Gamecocks to their first SEC winning streak in three years last week. Thornwell averaged 20.5 points, five rebounds and five assists in South Carolina’s home wins over Vanderbilt and Alabama.
“It feels good to finally come here and smile,” Thornwell said after his team’s win against Vandy. “All the times we come in here, we frown or we’re sad about blowing a lead or (how we) messed up or something. So it feels good to finally come here and smile.”
The highlight of Thornwell’s week came Saturday against the Crimson Tide.
Down the stretch, the freshman scored or assisted on 15 of the final 17 points — including the winning free throws with five seconds left — in the Gamecocks’ 67-66 victory. Thornwell finished with 22 points, his fifth 20-point game of the season. That’s four more 20-point games than Kentucky uber-freshman Julius Randle, and the same number as former South Carolina star B.J. McKie during his 1996 SEC Freshman of the Year season.
As early as Friday morning, South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook questioned whether his team would be able to open the 2014 season against Bucknell this weekend.
The winter weather that passed through Columbia this week wreaked havoc on the diamond at Carolina Stadium, forcing Friday’s scheduled opener to be postponed. The Gamecocks will host Bucknell for a doubleheader starting noon Saturday. As of 2 p.m. Friday, Bucknell was approximately 200 miles from Columbia.
It was more than the Bison’s travel plans that had South Carolina worried this weekend. The Gamecocks’ grounds crew worked obsessively — almost ’round the clock — to get the field into playing condition.
Holbrook is impressed with how quickly the field reached acceptable standards.
“It’s affecting the field,” Holbrook said of the weather. “It’s very wet out there, especially in the outfield. Hopefully we’ll get a continued couple more hours of sunlight and some drying to take place, and I think it will be a great surface tomorrow. The infield is dry as a bone.
“I think by tomorrow, (the field) will be as pretty as it always is. Our people have worked extremely hard. At 10 a.m., I would have said there’s no way we’re going to be able to play tomorrow. All the sudden, through their hard work and effort, I think we have a chance. So we’ve had a lot of people pitch in around here.”
Jadeveon Clowney would “probably” be preparing for his senior season at South Carolina instead of the NFL Draft if the NCAA hadn’t clung to its amateur model for student-athletes.
The Gamecocks’ two-time All-American defensive end told Jim Rome on Showtime he likely would have stayed in college if athletes were paid to play. At least Clowney would have a decision to make. But a full-ride scholarship doesn’t shine quite like the multi-million-dollar contract he’ll sign in the NFL.
So Clowney, the top defensive prospect in May’s draft, left after only three seasons with the Gamecocks.
“Having to take care of my family, it would have made a difference if I’d have gotten paid,” Clowney told Rome. “If I would have had the chance to take care of my family through college, I would have probably stayed in college.”
Clowney’s interview with Jim Rome aired 9 p.m. Wednesday on Showtime. During the interview, the All-American was also asked if he believes college athletes should be paid.
South Carolina’s baseball team has postponed the start of its season because of winter weather.
The Gamecocks’ opener against Bucknell scheduled for Friday has been postponed to Saturday. They will now play a Saturday doubleheader against Bucknell with a noon start at Carolina Stadium. The second game will begin at 4 p.m. Both games will be nine innings.
Tickets for Friday’s opener will be honored for only game one of the doubleheader. Tickets for the originally scheduled Saturday game will be honored for only game two of the doubleheader.