South Carolina Gamecocks: 22-9, 12-6 in the SEC
Head coach: Frank Martin (5th season)
Players to watch: Sindarius Thornwell (21.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.2 SPG); PJ Dozier (13.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.9 APG); Chris Silva (9.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG)
Season recap: South Carolina started the season a perfect 8-0 with a big-time home victory against Michigan, as they held the Wolverines to just 46 points, and then added a neutral-site win against Syracuse. But after the Gamecocks fell to Seton Hall Dec. 12, they proceeded to lose two of their next four before beginning conference play. And even with a 9-1 start in the SEC, South Carolina could not sustain its momentum down the stretch—the Gamecocks dropped four of their final six regular-season matchups.
Fortunately for Frank Martin's team, SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell is capable of carrying the team to wins on any given night with his offensive arsenal. Thornwell was the only Gamecock to garner any All-SEC honors, making the conference's first team as well as the All-Defensive team as one of the most physical 6-foot-5 players in the nation.
South Carolina also has a talented trio of shooters around Thornwell with Dozier, Duane Notice and Rakym Felder. Although Martin had not carried the Gamecocks to the NCAA tournament, the fifth-year coach has plenty of March Madness experience—he has made four appearances as a head coach and took Kansas State to the Elite Eight in 2009.
How they make a run: South Carolina's physical defense that holds opponents to 64.5 points stymies opponents and Thornwell plays like one of the best wings in the nation.
How they falter: South Carolina's offense simply goes cold at the wrong time as Thornwell struggles to put the ball in the basket. Without their offensive star, the Gamecocks are lost offensively and make it a fifth opening weekend exit in six trips to the NCAA tournament for Martin.
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A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak."