Top-seeded Gamecocks face Oregon State in NCAAs

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SEATTLE (AP) - Five years to rebuild was probably a reasonable expectation for Scott Rueck when he arrived at Oregon State considering the disarray he was inheriting.

He arrived in Corvallis to take over a program that was devastated amid allegations of emotional abuse under former coach LaVonda Wagner. The roster was so barren, Rueck held open tryouts. His first game, the squad included two returners, three freshmen, three walk-ons, a soccer player and a volleyball player.

That was the fall of 2010. On Tuesday night, Oregon State (24-10) will play for a spot in the Sweet 16 when the ninth-seeded Beavers face No. 1 seed South Carolina.

“I don’t think there’s any way you could have predicted that we would be here right now. I wouldn’t have,” Rueck said Monday. “I thought best-case scenario would be year five or six.”

Both South Carolina (28-4) and Oregon State have undergone massive makeovers under their current coaches. Dawn Staley has elevated the Gamecocks to the elite of the Southeastern Conference, with the school earning its first No. 1 seed this season.

But what Rueck has done with Oregon State is worthy of more attention than it has received.

After 14 seasons at Division III George Fox, Rueck was tasked with rebuilding a crumbling program. The school seriously considered shelving the program for one season in an attempt to rebuild the foundation.

Rueck forged ahead during a challenging first season in 2011, leading the Beavers to a 9-21 record. The first breakthrough came a season later, when Oregon State was 20-13 and was selected for the Women’s NIT.

Even with a major step back in 2013, when the Beavers finished 10-21, Rueck knew winning was coming soon. Oregon State was landing players he assumed it would take many seasons to get.

Sydney Wiese was one of those. She believed in what Rueck was selling, that the NCAA tournament was obtainable. Her career-high 26 points in the 55-36 win over Middle Tennessee in the first round gave the Beavers their first NCAA win since 1995 and third in school history.

Their NCAA tournament history is so limited that the box scores take up only two pages in the team’s game notes and include the hand written boxes from Oregon State’s first two trips in 1983 and 1984.

“I believed in it. I believed that (Rueck) would recruit the right people that could get the job done and here we are,” Wiese said.

Here are five things to watch as the Gamecocks and Beavers each try to reach the round of 16:

FORGET BOULDER: South Carolina seemed to have a clear path to the Sweet 16 last season. After knocking off South Dakota State in the first round, the Gamecocks faced 12th-seeded Kansas in the second round, the result of the Jayhawks upsetting Colorado.

But Kansas pulled off a 75-69 win, holding the Gamecocks scoreless for the final 2:52 of the game.

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