SEC: No More Garden

By Doug Kroll - October 26, 2006

Normally, everyone who isn't from the New York area wants to visit, after all it's the greatest city in the world. Dave Odom's South Carolina Gamecocks have other feelings about the city that never sleeps. To say the Gamecocks have seen enough of NYC would be an understatement. Odom talked about the NIT, which he has had amazing success at during his coaching career, and also chipped in about Renaldo Balkman. Isn't it fitting that Balkman ended up as a Knick and will be playing basketball at Madison Square Garden now for a while? I do. The current New York Knicks rookie left South Carolina after last season, and many were shocked when the Knicks took him with the 20th overall pick in the draft. Odom gave his two cents about that situation.

As lovely and as historic as Madison Square Garden is, South Carolina doesn't want to see it anymore in the postseason. Winning back-to-back NIT Championships is sort of a mixed bag. You are one of only two teams left in the nation who finished winners of the last game you played (except for the Ivy Leaguers who don't play a conference championship.) One has to remember that South Carolina lost an ugly game in the final moments to eventual Nation Champion Florida, in the SEC tournament game, 49-47. If the Gamecocks win that game, obviously they don't go to the NIT. But let's go over Odom's track record when it comes to the National Invitation Tournament. I'll even start back when he was an assistant coach at Virginia. In 1984-85, he helped the Cavs get to the quarterfinals of the tournament (when it still mattered more than it does today). After moving to Wake Forest as the head coach and making the NCAA tournament 7 of his first 8 seasons, Odom settled for NIT appearances in '97-'98 and '98-'99. The next year the Deacs finally took him the prize from MSG, winning the NIT championship. Moving onto his time at South Carolina (the last five years), Odom led his quad to the NIT championship game in his first season, '01-'02. And of course the last two years, he has won it all. So lets recap.

Odom's overall NIT experience (as assistant and head coach):
7 NIT appearances, 3 NIT titles

Odom's head coach NIT experience:
6 NIT appearances, 3 NIT titles

Most coaches will tell you that at that point in the season, they are just happy to be playing basketball still, that's if of course they weren't jipped of a chance to be in the Big Dance. Odom feels the same way, but of course, it's not where you aspire to be when camp opens in the middle of October.

"Nobody starts out or wants to finish their coaching career saying 'Well I was a really good NIT coach,'" Odom said. "I don't think anyone starts out to do that, but at the same time, when you play out a season and that's what's left at the end of the conference tournament, then you want to attack that with all your might. I think our team deserves a lot of credit to be able to switch gears, refocus, and play hard enough to win a second championship. I give them credit for that, I do."

As far as the goals for the upcoming season?

"My goal is the same this year as it was last year," Odom said. "It's to make the NCAA tournament. Make no bones about it, I think we have a chance to do that. I've challenged my team to aspire to that, to play to that level. So we're going to go for it. I think the hardest part is always the best part, and that is, this league. It's the best and the worst. It's the best, in that if you look at the preseason All-Conference teams, and you compare it with two or three of the other premiere leagues in the country, there is no comparison this year. I've always said that everything is seasonal, but there's no comparison. This league, this year, is top heavy."

Posted by Doug Kroll at 11:33 AM on October 26, 2006

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