Conference: OVC (Automatic-Bid)
Record: 20-14 (9-7)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 15 (Midwest)
How they got to the Big Dance
The Gamecocks had an average 2016-17 regular season but finished with 20 wins. The greatest highlight of their season so far has come in postseason play. It has been a season of firsts for Jacksonville State, the fourth seed in the OVC Tournament advanced to their first ever final after a win over one-seeded Belmont. Then in the finals, they took down UT Martin to earn their first OVC title and first ticket to the Big Dance.
Why they’re a legitimate contender
The Gamecocks have all the momentum right now, upsetting the top two seeds in their conference on their way to the tournament. With four players scoring in double figures they can share the wealth and don’t have to rely on one player. With the way they have been playing down the stretch, Jacksonville State has all the looks of a possible 2017 Cinderella.
Why they’re not a legitimate contender
Even with four players scoring 10 or more points per game, the Gamecocks might just not have enough. As a low seed, scoring 69.7 points per game may not get the job done against an explosive offense. If shots don’t fall early and Jacksonville State falls behind, they may not have the offensive firepower to stay competitive.
Player to watch: Guard Malcolm Drumwright
Averaging 12.6 points per game, Drumwright will be the Gamecocks’ number-one option in the tournament. Drumwright shoots 79 percent from the line and 41 percent from the field and could be asked to do a lot against a strong Louisville team. If Jacksonville State wants to pull off the upset, Drumwright will have to score often.