Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Never heard of Wofford? Time to learn
By Andy Katz
Let’s put Wofford’s Southern Conference title in perspective, shall we?
The Terriers haven’t been in the NCAA tournament. The Terriers haven’t been in the NIT. The Terriers have never won a conference tournament or a regular-season title.
This was an old NAIA school that just joined the Southern Conference in 1997. Its undergraduate enrollment is just under 1,500 students. So when head coach Mike Young got on the phone late Monday night/Tuesday morning, he simply said: “Forgive me, this is new.’’
Wofford players erupt in celebration after the team clinched the SoCon tourney title with a win over ASU.
No reason to apologize, coach. Wofford is hardly a household name. But looking back, the Terriers should have been more on our mind. They were one possession away from winning at Pitt in the season opener, took out Georgia and South Carolina of the SEC and went 15-3 in a respected league.
Young should have perspective. He’s been with Wofford since joining Richard Johnson’s staff in 1989, and has been the head coach for the past eight years.
“Can we cause some trouble? Well if it’s a matchup with a team that is really big it could be tough,’’ Young said by phone. “I would think we could cause some heartburn for the team preparing for us in the first round. We’re not going to beat ourselves. We’re not going to take bad shots.’’
Young said he wouldn’t want to face a team like Wofford in the first round.
“We’ll be ready to go.”
That doesn’t sound like someone who is new to this NCAA process. Remember, this is a league that produced Davidson and Steph Curry and a magical Elite Eight run.
Wofford, like conference mate College of Charleston, has seen the big boys, stood up and won. Wofford was the aggressor from the outset against Appalachian State, jumping out to a 17-3 lead before holding on to defeat the Mountaineers.
“There’s no secret we hit with a special group of guys,’’ Young said. “We have a group of kids that believe in us, are getting a great education and came here to win a championship of a really good mid-major league.’’
As giddy as Young is about the bid, he’s not shocked. He knows how well Wofford played in nonconference games against the power schools.
“There was a time when we were 2-0 against the SEC East and 0-2 in the Southern Conference,’’ Young said. “To turn it around and get to this point is amazing. We were in a two-point game at Michigan State at the 10-minute mark. We should have been up three or five against Illinois (before losing). The bottom line is that we’ve got a darn good basketball team. We play the right way, we don’t turn it over and we’re happy people.’’
Happy indeed. At their tiny campus in Spartanburg, S.C., there could be no better adjective at the moment.