I called last night’s game against Tennessee a must win, and despite a valiant comeback, South Carolina was not able to win it. With that loss USC is now 1-4 in conference with two home losses and the meat of the schedule coming up. They aren’t technically out of the running for the NCAA tournament, but the turnaround would need to be more than amazing for them to get back in the picture.
Of course, it’s good to remember that this is just year three. No one expected Carolina to be in NCAA tournament position this year. Realistic projections had next year or the year after as the most likely scenario, and those scenarios were optimistic. If Frank Martin continues the course in Columbia, and there’s no indication he won’t, he will produce many NCAA caliber teams and these early days will be an amusing memory.
But until that happens, there is still plenty for the Gamecocks to play for. They have 13 games left in conference, and they are good enough to play in all of them. Even when they haven’t played well, they really haven’t been run out of the gym, and if they can find some more consistent offense, they can string together some wins. They should first shoot for a winning season overall, and then perhaps finish .500 in conference. Either of those goals would be a big step forward for the program and might slide USC into the NIT or CBI in March which would be something to keep propelling the program forward.