After finishing the out of conference schedule on a high note, the Gamecocks have floundered in conference play and face a must win situation against Alabama on Tuesday night. If Carolina wants to make it to the NCAA tournament, they can’t afford to lose to the Crimson Tide. Technically, I suppose it’s not a must win game insofar as the Gamecocks could lose the game and still make the tournament. In fact, they could lose the next 16 and then go on a run in the conference tournament, but that’s not really what we are talking about.
South Carolina is a disappointing 0-2, but come tournament time a home loss to Florida and a road loss to Ole Miss probably won’t keep Carolina out of the field. Starting the conference slate 0-3 with two home losses and two games against Kentucky still up, would probably be enough to sink USC’s confidence and regular season.
To get to the tournament, USC is going to have to finish high up in the standings in the SEC. Finishing in the top 4 and getting the double bye in the conference tournament should be good enough to get in to the Big Dance. That will probably require a record of something like 12-6 or 11-7. That needs to be the Gamecocks goal?
How do you get there? You win at home and steal half of your away games. If South Carolina follows that path, easier said than done, they will finish 12-6. So, there’s even some room for error. Drop a home game? Then you’ve got to find a way to win another road game.
That’s why Tuesday night is so important. South Carolina needs to get back in the conference race picture, and needs a home win. From a mental perspective, they probably need any win. Hopefully there will be a good home crowd to create a home court advantage, and USC can get back on track.