South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks rising up NCAA Tournament projections

South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris has done the unthinkable: he's taken an 11-win team and turned them into a March Madness contender.

South Carolina basketball guard Ta'Lon Cooper
South Carolina basketball guard Ta'Lon Cooper / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina basketball was snubbed by the AP poll again this week, slotting in with the 35th most voter points, still 10 spots outside of the official top-25. Thankfully, more informed voices are recognizing that the Gamecocks are better than that.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi released his updated Bracketology on Tuesday, and the Gamecocks moved up in his projections. Spending most of the past several weeks seeded as a 10-seed or 11-seed (sometimes listed in the "last 4 byes," the Gamecocks are firmly in the field for Lunardi now. Projected as a 9-seed, USC is one of 8 SEC teams in Lunardi's field, but Florida is close, and Missouri and Arkansas are still hanging out in the picture.

NCAA.com's Andy Katz released his first March Madness bracket projection, and he is even higher on Lamont Paris' team. Katz has the Gamecocks as a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament. His high opinion of South Carolina basketball was also reflected in his weekly Power-36 rankings. Carolina slots in at #19 in Katz's rankings as one of his biggest risers of the week.

The rest of the SEC schedule will reveal just how "for real" the Gamecocks are. A gauntlet of a schedule awaits South Carolina, but with the strength of the conference this season, a .500 record in the league likely will be enough to get the Gamecocks into the NCAA Tournament field.

9-9 in the SEC would give them a 21-10 record heading into the SEC Tournament, a mark that should have Carolina fans confident in their team's postseason chances. They got a head start on getting those wins this past weekend by knocking off a physical Mississippi State team that is in both Lunardi's and Katz's NCAA Tournament projections.

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