In what seems to be a February tradition for South Carolina men’s basketball, the Gamecocks find themselves fighting tooth and nail for a NCAA Tournament berth.
As of today, Carolina’s NET Ranking is 76.
In order to be a true bubble team, that ranking needs to be at 55 or better, which seems like a pretty long way to go for the Gamecocks, given their two Quad 4 losses to Boston and Stetson.
The Gamecocks have a 3-5 record against Quad 1 teams, with wins over Kentucky, at Arkansas, and at Virginia.
The Quad 1 losses that the Gamecocks have suffered were the games against Houston, Northern Iowa, Florida, at Tennessee, and at Auburn.
In Quad 2, the Gamecocks’ lone win is at Clemson, with losses to Wichita State and at Ole Miss.
Currently, the Gamecocks have a perfect 5-0 record against Quad 3 teams.
As this regular season draws to a close with eight games remaining, each game for Carolina is of the utmost importance if they are going to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
In the remaining contests, Carolina has an opportunity for three Quad 1 wins (at Mississippi State, vs. LSU, and at Alabama) and two Quad 2 wins (at Georgia and vs. Mississippi State), with the remaining contests being Quad 3 games, except for the regular-season ending game against Vanderbilt in Nashville, which is the Gamecocks’ lone opportunity for a Quad 4 win remaining this season.
After analyzing Carolina’s remaining schedule, the Gamecocks need to finish the rest of the regular season at a minimum of 6-2 with no more Quad 3 or 4 losses to become a bubble team.
Finishing the regular season with a 20-11 (12-6 SEC) record would give Carolina a reasonable chance at the 4-seed in the SEC Tournament, securing a double-bye in Nashville.
With 20 regular-season wins and a good showing (at least two wins) in the SEC Tournament, the Gamecocks’ ranking would move into the neighborhood of the top-50, which has seemingly been the magic number for Power Five teams since the NCAA moved to the NET rankings instead of the RPI.
The next two weeks of games are huge for Carolina’s tournament chances, and anything worse than a record of 3-1 would put the nail in the coffin for their chances of an at-large bid.
Beginning with Wednesday’s game against Georgia in Athens, every game remaining on the schedule has to be viewed as a must-win.
Given the Gamecocks’ recent form, they can surely compete with every other team in the SEC, so a tournament berth is not impossible, although the losses to Boston and Stetson have left the margin for error razor thin for Frank Martin’s squad.
Long story short, the Gamecocks have to keep winning and let the doubters and experts speak for themselves.