If anyone can appreciate what Frank Martin has accomplished at South Carolina, it’s Dave Odom. The 74-year-old Odom coached at South Carolina from 2001-08, leading the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament in 2004 and to back-to-back NIT championships in 2005 and 2006.
Winning in college basketball is not easy, especially when the talent in your home state, relatively speaking, isn’t all that great.
“Like anything else, it’s cyclic,” Odom said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “When I was there, we didn’t have a run of really good talent. We had like one player a year. Now they’ve got a run of maybe three or four, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but in a state like South Carolina, that is a lot. If they can keep that homegrown three or four players, it really makes a big difference in terms of your ability to turn a program and keep it going, which Frank Martin deserves a lot of credit for doing right now. The more you win, the more your fan base will encourage the home-grown talent to stay home. For years, North Carolina has been more effective recruiting in the state of South Carolina than the Gamecocks have right in their own state in basketball.”
Raymond Felton and Brice Johnson, for example, are two South Carolina natives pilfered by the Tar Heels in recent years, but that’s the nature of living in a state that has SEC and ACC ties.
“When you live it every day, you understand it,” Odom said. “The ACC has been able to come down there… But one of the advantages of having a small state is if (the recruits) are state-conscious, if they are proud of the state they live in, you can really build a fan base to follow you no matter what the sport is.”
In any event, No. 7 South Carolina (26-10) will face No. 1 Gonzaga (36-1) in the Final Four in Glendale this Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET. The outcome may hinge on the Gamecocks’ ability to disrupt Gonzaga’s offense, which is one of the most efficient in the country.
Translation: If the officials call a tight game, advantage Gonzaga.
“They need to have the flexibility and the freedom to play the game the way they’ve been taught to play it,” Odom said of the Gamecocks. “It’s a physical style, but at the same time, there’s so much talk about the physicality of the South Carolina defense. But (after beating West Virginia), Mark Few . . . said people would be surprised at how tough and physical our kids can be when they need to be. So I wouldn’t just totally give the physicality edge to South Carolina. Mark Few has done a really good job up in the Northwest. They have a very skilled team, they’re big, they shoot the ball well on the wings, they handle the ball out front and they proved against West Virginia that they can play against very physical defenses.”
Interestingly, the South Carolina women’s team (31-4) advanced to the Final Four as well and will face No. 2 Stanford (32-5) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET. All of this South Carolina basketball success comes on the heels of Clemson winning a national title in football and Coastal Carolina winning a national championship in baseball.
That’s a pretty good year for one state.
“South Carolina has a chance to do something that’s almost unprecedented in a 10- or 12-month period, to sweep all the championships,” Odom said, adding that Dustin Johnson, who is from Columbia, is the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world. “The state of South Carolina is going through an absolute bonanza right now. There are winners everywhere.”