Sweet 16 newcomer South Carolina faces Baylor in East Region

by Associated Press on March 23, 2017 at 3:27 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — No. 7 seed South Carolina (24-10) vs. No. 3 seed Baylor (27-7)

Sweet 16, East region; New York, 7:29 p.m. EDT.

BOTTOM LINE: This is all new for the Gamecocks. They are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since the field expanded to 64, having beaten Duke in the second-round at Greenville, South Carolina, along the way. Before their first-round victory against Marquette, the Gamecocks hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973. They hadn’t even been in the tournament since 2004. Baylor is back in the Sweet 16 after first-round exits the last two years. This is the Bears’ fourth Sweet 16 under coach Scott Drew, but they haven’t been to a Final Four since 1950.

THE SHOW: South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell is the Southeastern Conference player of the year — despite a six-game suspension early in the season — and he has lived up to his star billing in the NCAA Tournament. The senior had 29 points and 11 rebounds against Marquette and 24 and seven vs. Duke. Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski called him “the best, unheralded, great player in the United States.”

NO. 1: Baylor had a short stint in January as the No. 1 team in the AP college basketball poll, a first in program history. The Bears went 4-5 in February. Otherwise it was another successful year for Drew’s program. Baylor is one of 13 teams to reach the Sweet 16 at least four times since 2010.

FAMILIARITY: Gamecocks coach Frank Martin left Kansas State to take over in Columbia, South Carolina, in 2012. Martin went 4-4 against Drew and Baylor while he was in coaching in the Big 12. The teams have met twice since Martin came to South Carolina and Baylor won twice, the last time in 2014. Martin said familiarity with Baylor’s matchup zone helps some but more so the Gamecocks benefit from having played zone teams Syracuse and Michigan. South Carolina won both games.

MOTLEY’S CREW: Johnathan Motley is Baylor’s best player. An All-Big 12 pick and potential All-American, Motley averages 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

___

For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org/ and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25