So, those Wofford Terriers looked pretty darn great in the NCAA Tournament, did they not?
Fun team to watch, eh? Integrated. Cohesive. Coherent. Fletcher Magee is a stud. Nathan Hoover can ball, too. Wofford’s big men provided substantial support to the main scorers, creating an inside-outside dynamic Seton Hall’s defense couldn’t fully solve.
Wofford panicked at the offensive end of the floor midway through the second half, but for 25 of the game’s 40 minutes, the Terriers’ offense was sharp and fluid, creating high-quality shots and remaining one step ahead of the Seton Hall defense. Wofford endured a number of rough patches, but it saved its best basketball for last on Thursday night in Jacksonville.
The plot twist was exquisite: Seton Hall might not have made the NCAA Tournament in the first place had it not uncorked a game-ending 18-0 run versus Marquette on March 6. That run turned a 64-55 deficit into a 73-64 win which put the Pirates in good position to nail down a bid a few days later with a victory over Villanova.
Two weeks after that game-ending — and season-changing — run by Seton Hall, the Pirates stood on the other side of the divide. Leading 64-63 heading into the final few minutes of regulation, the Hall was decked by a 17-2 finishing kick from Wofford. The surge by the Terriers didn’t so much change their season as it affirmed it. Wofford has been busy winning a ton of games this season. Thursday’s win moved a 20-game winning streak to 21. More significantly, the victory gave Wofford its first NCAA Tournament triumph in five tries. That means the world to coach Mike Young, to Magee, Hoover, and the rest of the Southern Conference champions.
They not only showed their stuff but gained the reward which validated their hard work.
Wofford showed how good it was all season. Wofford proved that it required an extremely high level of basketball to go 21-0 in the SoCon, a league in which four teams won at least 24 games. Wofford revealed how high a standard it had to set in order to gain a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament — good enough to wear home jerseys in the first round as a mid-major program — in the face of UNC-Greensboro, Furman, and East Tennessee State.
The other really great thing about this win over Seton Hall: Wofford earned a date with a blue-blood in college basketball.
Little-Guy Wofford against Guardian Of The Elites Kentucky.
Southern Conference versus Southeastern Conference.
Wofford’s home gymnasium seats 3,400 people. Kentucky’s home building holds seven times as many spectators — Rupp Arena’s capacity is officially listed at 23,500, but standing room has accommodated 24,480 for a game (2010 against Louisville).
These teams exist in different basketball universes, but after seeing Wofford represent itself and the SoCon with such distinction on Thursday, you know that the Terriers figure to give Kentucky a good game.
Will it be enough to win? Well, let’s see how it all plays out… but now you know that Wofford is really good. That — and a first NCAA Tournament win — should represent a profound step forward for the school in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Wofford has attained a new level of respect, and no one can take away that reality.
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