You can easily make the argument that Duke would have lost against South Carolina no matter where those teams played that game on Sunday night.
The seventh-seeded Gamecocks dropped 65 second-half points on No. 2 Duke to win 88-81 in an East Regional Round of 32 game, giving the tournament its most surprising, bracket-breaking upset so far.
Hats off to Frank Martin for getting the Gamecocks to a place they haven’t been to in 44 years. Duke losing is the bigger story, but Martin accomplishing that for that program is the better story. Winning in basketball isn’t common at South Carolina, and now Martin will forever be remembered at that program.
Still, the game’s location and the reasons for the tournament being played at said location must be addressed. Almost no one is going to be feeling sorry for Duke losing, but we have to have a realistic discussion here.
Duke, a 2 seed, in effect played a road game in the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina fans, as they should have, overtook the building. Tar Heels fans, as they should have, filled up the joint and joined in their border buddies to cheer against Duke. But this was a bracket oddity. The selection committee could have opted to put South Carolina as a 7 in the Midwest and Michigan as a 7 in the East, flipping the teams, and the disadvantage would’ve been eliminated.
The reason for the unprecedented quasi-home court for a lower-seeded team in a second round game was born from an unprecedented decision. This game was held in Greenville, South Carolina, only because of a man named Pat McCrory. He’s the now-voted-out governor from North Carolina who put into law a bill that the NCAA protested by means of moving the 2017 tourney out of Greensboro, North Carolina.
Among other things, House Bill 2, which is viewed as discriminatory in the eyes of millions, doesn’t allow for people who identify as a certain sex to use the bathroom of their choosing, pending the decisions made by private businesses and/or within governmental facilities. It has been an issue of national debate for months. The NCAA makes its choice to move the tournament out of North Carolina, and here’s the collateral damage of McCrory’s legislation. Sports and politics mix more often than people realize, but this was a decision that wound up costing millions for Duke, the state of North Carolina and the ACC.
Duke didn’t lose because of where it played, but the NCAA’s moving the tourney out of North Carolina unquestionably had some impact on what happened Sunday night.