The five best Frank McGuire teams

January 19, 2014 

Gamecock legend Alex English signs autographs Saturday afternoon before USC's game against Ole Miss.

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com

As South Carolina hosts a weekend honoring legendary USC basketball coach Frank McGuire, The State takes a look at some of his best teams.

5. 1973-74 (22-5)

The last entry in USC’s greatest streak of consecutive NCAA tournaments in history (four), Alex English, Mike Dunleavy and Brian Winters combined to form a potent team. In the third year of playing an independent schedule, the Gamecocks won at Michigan State, at Villanova and beat Marquette and Houston. Their losses were to Indiana, Alabama, Davidson and Notre Dame in the regular season. The tournament sent them to Philadelphia for the first round, where they found another Palmetto State team waiting — Furman. The Paladins ended the Gamecocks’ season 75-67 as Winters finished his career with 22 points.

4. 1971-72 (24-5)

The first year post-ACC didn’t deter USC from making a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. Winters, Kevin Joyce, Tom Riker and Danny Traylor led the Gamecocks to wins against Clemson (twice), Davidson, UNLV and Notre Dame to post a 23-3 regular-season record. Joyce hit a jumper from the top of the key in the waning seconds to deliver a 53-51 win against Temple in the NCAA tournament, but five double-figure scorers at North Carolina ended the dream in the next round. USC closed the season with a consolation win against Villanova.

3. 1970-71 (23-6)

The team that erased the sting of the previous season by winning the ACC championship and making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history, the Gamecocks featured senior John Roche and his supporting cast of Tom Owens, Joyce, Tom Riker and John Ribock. A very strong team that squeaked past North Carolina in the ACC tournament final, USC ran into a mixmaster in the NCAA tournament. Third-ranked Penn whipped USC 79-64 as Roche was pressured all night. USC also lost its consolation game to Fordham.

2. 1969-70 (25-3)

A non-NCAA tournament team included? How can that be? Because USC went 14-0 in the ACC that year. The rules weren’t as friendly as they are now — if a team didn’t win its conference tournament, it didn’t go to the NCAA tournament. While hammering Wake Forest in the second round, disaster struck. Roche tripped over a defender and injured his ankle. While he suited up and played the next night against N.C. State, the Wolfpack weren’t going to let the hobbled star stop them. They played slowdown and won in double overtime, 42-39, to end the Gamecocks’ season.

1. 1972-73 (22-7)

Stocked with Joyce, Winters, Dunleavy, English and Traylor, this may have been USC’s most talented team. The Gamecocks again made it to the NCAA tournament and beat Texas Tech in the first round (the last non-consolation NCAA tournament game the Gamecocks have won), before losing to a Memphis State team that would reach the national championship game. USC ended the year by beating Southwestern Louisiana in a consolation game. While this team had more losses than anyone else in the top five, the Gamecocks also played a much more aggressive schedule, beating Michigan State, UNLV Indiana and Davidson.

David Cloninger

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