South Carolina basketball: What will it take to make the NCAA Tournament?

What’s it going to take for the South Carolina basketball team to make the NCAAT?

South Carolina currently sits at just 5-6, with three of those five wins coming in SEC play. The Gamecocks have been up and down, struggling at times to handle the COVID pandemic and keep the team at full strength. As of now, an invite to the NIT is not guaranteed, but there’s still time for Frank Martin’s group to make a late season run, and get into the postseason discussion.

The Gamecocks are coming off of their biggest win of the year, knocking off a ranked Florida team on the road earlier this week. Looking ahead, the team will have a number of opportunities to keep the momentum going and pick up some quality wins along the way.

Below is the remaining schedule, along with each team’s NET ranking.

Sat., Feb. 6 – vs. Mississippi State (84)
Tue., Feb. 9 – vs. Alabama (8)
Sat., Feb. 13 – vs. Ole Miss (69)
Tue., Feb. 16 – at Tennessee (13)
Sat., Feb. 20 – vs. Missouri (28)
Wed., Feb. 24 – at Mississippi State (84)
Sat., Feb. 27 – at Georgia (99)
Tue., March 2 – vs. Arkansas (30)
TBD – at Kentucky (77)
TBD – at Ole Miss (69)
TBD – vs. Tennessee (13)

The NET rankings have now become the key analytic in terms of determining a team’s strength of record, as well as its chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament. Signature wins and bad losses can be broken down with these ratings, as the algorithm decides outcomes in terms of quadrants.

Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30; Neutral vs. 1-50; Away vs. 1-75.
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75; Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135.
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160; Neutral 101-200; Away 136-240.
Quadrant 4: Home 161-plus; Neutral 201-plus; Away 241-plus

Obviously, you want to gain as many quad one and two wins as possible, while avoiding demoralizing quad four losses. Right now, the Gamecocks stand at 2-5 in quad one and two matchups, and 3-1 in quad three and four outings.

And with the Gamecocks facing all top 100 NET foes moving forward, there will be a ton of opportunities for notable victories. As it stands now, South Carolina’s lone quad three matchup is tomorrow versus Mississippi State. The rest lie in the quad one and two sectors.

There are 11 possible matchups remaining on the slate, though three of those contests may or may not come to fruition. The Gamecocks were forced to postpone games against Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Kentucky earlier in the year, but the hope is that they’ll be moved to a later date if possible.

Let’s assume that the schedule will be played out in its entirety. The Gamecocks will need to take care of business against Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi State (2x). You’d like to see the team win at least three of those four matchups, and avoid losing its lone quad three game this weekend.

From there, South Carolina likely needs to go 4-3 versus the remaining schedule, which would make for a 7-4 finish to the season. That would give the Gamecocks eight wins over quad one and two opponents, bump the overall record to 12-10, and certainly earn Frank Martin’s group some NCAA tournament speculation. An 8-3 finish would assure an at-large bid.

On the flip side, six wins or less and the Gamecocks are likely on the outside looking in, barring a run the SEC tournament.

South Carolina is out of the postseason picture for now, but the door is far from slammed shut. A strong finish to the year could catapult the Gamecocks back into contention, and the journey to a possible NCAA tournament appearance begins tomorrow.