GREENVILLE, N.C. — Another national title contender has fallen.
In one of the most stunning upsets of this NCAA tournament so far, No. 2 seed Duke was knocked out, 88-81, by No. 7 South Carolina in front of a raucous crowd late Sunday night.
Sindarius Thornwell had 24 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead the Gamecocks to a thrilling upset.
The Gamecocks advance to play in the Sweet 16 in New York City, where they’ll face No. 3 Baylor. The Blue Devils, one of the hottest teams in the country coming off their Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship last week, do not make it out of the NCAA tournament’s first weekend for the first time since their loss to Mercer in 2014.
BOX SCORE: Gamecocks 88, Blue Devils 81
What will surely be a talking point in the aftermath of Sunday’s result is the selection committee’s decision to send South Carolina, a No. 7 seed, to play in Greenville, which is only about 100 miles from campus. Though Duke coaches and players said they weren’t concerned about playing a virtual road game as the higher seed in a second-round game, the atmosphere was clearly a factor — and something No. 2 seeds normally never have to worry about this early in the NCAA tournament.
Ironically, of course, is that this game would not have been played in the state of South Carolina had the state of North Carolina not passed the controversial House Bill 2. This weekend’s games were scheduled to be played in Greensboro, N.C., until the NCAA pulled all of its championships from North Carolina last year after HB2 passed.
The East region has now lost both its top two seeds, with No. 1 overall seed Villanova falling to No. 8 Wisconsin earlier this weekend, and now Duke, too. That takes some of the shine off the Madison Square Garden site next weekend, which will host Baylor, Florida, South Carolina and Wisconsin instead of two of basketball’s biggest brand names — and some of the Garden’s best fans.