March Madness: Cougars look to pounce on Big Dance opportunity

You want some March Madness? OK. 
How about the College of Charleston vs. Furman at the Amway Center in Orlando with a berth in the NCAA men’s basketball Sweet 16 on the line?
It could happen, but it would have to include first-round upsets by the Cougars and Paladins. Both teams begin play March 16 in Orlando as the march to March Madness begins.
The College of Charleston, with 31 victories, the most by any team in the bracket, holds down the No. 12 seed in the South bracket. The Cougars will play the fifth-seeded San Diego State Aztecs, who entered tourney play with a 27-6 mark.
This will mark San Diego State’s 18th appearance in the NCAA tourney. The Aztecs have produced many star players and one of them went on to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time: Tony Gwynn.
Aztec coach Brian Dutcher has been at the helm of the program for six seasons and has led his squad to the Big Dance four times.
CofC and SDSU have played one time with the Aztecs posting a 75-72 victory in 2013 in the first round of the Wooden Legacy tournament.
Furman, the No. 13 seed, will battle the University of Virginia, which owns a 25-7 record. Furman is making its first NCAA tourney appearance in 43 years after winning the SoConn championship.
The winners will advance to March 18’s second round with the victor of that game advancing to the Sweet 16.
Yes, we might need a little magic to make that happen, but then again it’s March Madness.
The College of Charleston, its students and fans celebrated the regular season and Colonial Athletic Conference championship March 12 as the university’s athletic department hosted a selection show watch party at TD Arena.
The crowd erupted when it was announced that the Cougars, 31-3 and kings of the CAA with a 63-58 victory over UNC Wilmington in the conference tourney championship, would play the Aztecs.
This is the Cougars’ first NCAA appearance since 2018 when Earl Grant was at the helm of the program. John Kresse, the legendary coach of the Cougars, guided the Cougars from NAIA to four-time Big Dance participants.
Second-year coach Pat Kelsey has the same energy and recruiting prowess as Kresse. Kelsey is an Ohio native who played collegiately at tradition-rich Xavier University. He has guided the team to a school record in wins and had the Cougars in the top 25 this season. He has been rewarded with a five-year, $5.5 million contract extension. 
USC women look to repeat
Meanwhile, the University of South Carolina is the only team from the Palmetto State in the women’s NCAA tournament.
And, if you are going to have only one team to pin your hopes on, then it’s got to be the Gamecocks, who are six victories away from an undefeated season and another national title.
Coach Dawn Staley’s squad has a 38-game winning streak dating back to last season and the Gamecocks are seeking to become only the fourth team to win back-to-back national titles.
The Gamecocks, the No. 1 overall team in the women’s bracket, will be at home to open the tourney. They will play Norfolk State on March 17.

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