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Will Clemson fans root for the hated Gamecocks in the Final Four? The votes are in.

South Carolina guard PJ Dozier (left) drives to the hoop against Clemson guard Marcquise Reed in a December game that Clemson won 62-60.
South Carolina guard PJ Dozier (left) drives to the hoop against Clemson guard Marcquise Reed in a December game that Clemson won 62-60. AP

Regional pride will swell Saturday as the Southeast meets the Pacific Northwest – North Carolina against Oregon and South Carolina taking on Washington’s Gonzaga – in the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four.

James Naismith would smile at what the game he invented has become. Naismith died in 1939, the year the first NCAA championship game was played (Oregon won, by the way).

But regional pride has its black holes, none deeper than the cherished hatred between South Carolina’s Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers. Their rivalry, dating to the 1880s, is so fierce it earned its own Wikipedia page.

Clemson’s football team, of course, won the national championship in January after vaporizing South Carolina 56-7 in their annual game. The Clemson basketball squad finished the season 17-16 and was bounced from the National Invitational Tournament’s first round.

Gamecocks return home after their NCAA win over Florida.

So as South Carolina meets top-seed Gonzaga on Saturday, Clemson fans will be left with their loathing of the garnet-and-black “Coots” and the fading glow of a 62-60 win over the Gamecocks back in December.

And a question: can Tigers ever root for Gamecocks?

Let’s go to tigernet.com for answers.

“To Root or Not to Root?” user name Uncle Bill posted to the Clemson fan message board Monday. “That is the Question!”

By midday Tuesday, the vote was 88 percent against and only 12 percent in favor.

“Would rather have a root canal than root for the chickens,” Tiger95 advised.

“Yes. For Gonzaga and Oregon,” offered dabrian.

“Indifference, or even ambivalence, would be good options,” added scooter.

“I don’t understand the idea of pulling for your conference teams or your rival in any sport,” wrote Tiger Michael. “How many ACC football coaches were really happy to see us win the national title in football?”

Warming to the theme, Drobins posted: “The day I root for SC to win in ANYTHING ... Is the day I turn in my Clemson diploma.”

“I have never had a reason to root for the coots in the 30 years since graduation, or before for that matter,” wrote Neal in NC. “I will die having never rooted for the coots.”

“So many Clemson fans seem so excited at the prospect that the coots could win the championship,” worried CU17. “Meanwhile, I’m excited over the prospect that they get stomped by Gonzaga and have to once again have their delusions of greatness snuffed out....”

“I would pull for terrorists before I would pull for the chickens,” Tiger Michael added.

“We don’t want the state putting up road signs proclaiming them national champs,” he later warned.

“Sorry, just won’t do it,” wrote Matthetiger. “I pull for Clemson in football, baseball, basketball, soccer, academic rankings, chess, debate club and whatever else we compete in. I’m not pulling for our ARCH FRICKING RIVAL in anything, ever.”

South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin discusses the historic run the Gamecocks are on.

A few fans swam against the current. One wrote that he could pull for South Carolina for “state pride rights.”

“I can kinda see where he’s coming from, wanting our state to look good and all, so before you call anyone else a coot, maybe you should take a look around and understand that if our own players want a sc victory, then maybe’s it’s ok if some of Clemson’s fans do too!” added TimmyTiger21. “It seems wrong, but in a way it kinda seems somewhat ‘right’ to some ....”

“For you to say you can pull for our arch rivals, a team with such scumbag fans, is pretty pathetic,” lextiger551 responded. “There’s no way you can be a die hard fan if you can pull for your rival. In any situation.”

“Both of my brothers are coots,” posted mpercy, adding that he had sent them a congratulatory text on the Gamecocks’ Final Four berth. “Having said that, I will still be hoping all their teams in all sports fail and fail spectacularly in each and every future endeavor including the Final Four. I hope they lose 100-nothing if possible.”

“You have my deepest sympathy,” intoned 2k. “Please know ... It’s not your fault.”

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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