Once again, Gamecock basketball is past the midway point of the regular season and their chances of making the NCAA tournament appear burdensome to say the least. South Carolina has shown flashes of good play throughout the season, followed by poor performances and frustrating losses.
Currently, the team finds itself at 12-7 with several tough opponents ahead. Although Carolina’s chances of making the Tournament appear to be in danger, the Gamecocks have hope of making the big dance if they are able to strictly follow these assignments.
STAY ABOVE .850 FOR THE REMAINDER OF UNRANKED GAMES LEFT ON THE SCHEDULE.
For years now, Gamecock basketball has struggled in maintaining consistency each game. For example, the team this year has taken down a dangerous UAB team, lost to Coastal Carolina (who is now .600) and then proceeded to beat Georgetown the very next game by thirteen points.
For the remaining seven unranked games on South Carolina’s schedule, (Texas A&M, Mississippi State X2, Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama, Mizzou) the Gamecocks virtually can not afford to lose more than once.
The Gamecocks will have to find a way to hold strong after big wins for the remainder of the season by not letting weaker opponents such as Georgia or Ole Miss get the best of them; while at the same time, they must find a way to put up strong performances against teams like A&M or Mississippi State (teams that are stronger but are definitely beatable so long as the right Gamecock team shows up).
The Gamecocks will need to stay consistent, and the same team will have to show up for each of these seven games if the gamecocks are to win 6 of these 7 games and have a shot of making the dance.
WIN AT LEAST TWO OUT OF FOUR RANKED GAMES WITH NO BLOWOUT LOSSES
As of today, the Gamecocks will face four ranked teams by the end of the regular season (Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, and Auburn). Carolina currently has zero wins against ranked opponents, which certainly has not helped their chances at making the tournament.
If you recall back to the 2015-2016 season, the Gamecocks finished the regular season 24-7 and did not make the tournament. The biggest argument against the gamecocks making the tournament that season was the fact that they struggled against ranked opponents and only managed to win one ranked game.
This season, Carolina will have to put up a notable performance in each of their four games against ranked teams. Even if the Gamecocks suffer a loss or two, they simply will have to be in the game the entire contest and will have to suffer respectable losses at best.
If the Gamecocks lose at least three games or get beaten by 25 points or more, in these four games, their tournament hopes will be in jeopardy.
PUT UP A WORTHY PERFORMANCE IN THE SEC TOURNAMENT
I can not stress this enough! If the Gamecocks allow a one game exit again for this year’s SEC tournament, their chances at making the NCAA Tournament will be completely erased. Carolina basketball has overall put up very sloppy performances in the SEC tournament over the past decade and it has haunted them.
Regardless of how well the regular season concludes, Carolina could destroy their chances of making the tournament with a bad performance in the SEC tournament.
I would say at the worst, Carolina should find a way to make the semi-final game in the SEC tournament and should suffer a respectable loss in that semi-final game. Anything less, and Carolina’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament will be doubtful.
PLAY QUALITY BASKETBALL LONGER
Obviously when a team is struggling, it all comes down to their quality of play. Most teams in similar situations would argue, “We need to play better to win more.” For South Carolina basketball however, I would argue that the Gamecocks have played great basketball this season.
They simply haven’t found a way to play great basketball for 40 minutes. This season, after every 5 minutes of good basketball, the team follows it up with turnovers, defensive breakdowns, bad decisions, and all-around sloppy play. Several weeks ago against Auburn (the now #1 ranked team), South Carolina found a way to turn a 27 point deficit into an 8 point deficit in minutes.
However, the Gamecocks followed the run up with messy play and a number of turnovers which allowed Auburn to push them back out of the game. If that same team found a way to show up for 40 minutes each game, Carolina would be in much better shape than they currently are.
If that same team finds a way to show up for 40 minutes each game for the remainder of the season, they will find themselves in the NCAA tournament.
Given the team’s performance thus far, it is easy for one to count them out for the tournament. South Carolina would have to play at a high level for longer increments of time to even have an opportunity of making the big dance.
However, South Carolina has shown glances of improvement throughout it’s last two games that could possibly give fans hope for a turnaround on the season.
Regardless, I would say chances overall at making the tournament this year are not likely. I hope I’m wrong, but I would place the team’s chances of making the tournament this season >10%.