South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks left out of NCAA Tournament projection

On3 put out their offseason NCAA Tournament projection, and Lamont Paris' South Carolina basketball team was not in the mock field of 68.
South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris
South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Lamont Paris and the South Carolina basketball program have moved from hardwood afterthought to legitimate postseason contender. The Gamecocks were a 6-seed in last season's NCAA Tournament after a record-tying 26 wins, and based on the offseason moves USC made, there is optimism that Carolina will be a very good team again in the 2024-2025 campaign.

However, not everyone seems to agree that the Gamecocks are in line for another big year.

In recent weeks, CBS Sports college basketball analyst Jon Rothstein has left South Carolina basketball out of his "Rothstein 45" rankings, though, he did reverse course a bit and included the Gamecocks among his list of SEC teams with legitimate NCAA Tournament aspirations.

On3's James Fletcher, though, did not have quite as favorable a projection of Coach Paris' squad. The national analyst released his "way-too-early bracketology" and did not include Carolina inside the projected field of 68 teams.

Fletcher didn't completely dismiss the Gamecocks as he named them as one of his "first four out" teams. Ten SEC teams (the Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, Texas A&M Aggies, Tennessee Volunteers, Arkansas Razorbacks, Kentucky Wildcats, Florida Gators, Ole Miss Rebels, Texas Longhorns, and Missouri Tigers) all made Fletcher's NCAA Tournament projection, while the South Carolina Gamecocks and Mississippi State Bulldogs were part of the "first four out." Alabama was the top overall seed in the mock bracket.

Fletcher did not provide a reason for USC's exclusion from the field, but with Carolina just outside of the 68-team group, it would appear that he believes there is a realistic path to March Madness for the Gamecocks.

The SEC likely will challenge the Big East's all-time record of 11 tournament teams in one season next March, and South Carolina basketball will be part of the pursuit. Fletcher's inclusion of the Missouri Tigers is somewhat unique when compared to other tournament projections, but the other nine schools in his field consistently have been in the discussion. The Oklahoma Sooners, Mississippi State Bulldogs, and Georgia Bulldogs all seem like realistic postseason contenders, as well.

If South Carolina basketball, indeed, does get into the field again, it will be the first back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament for the Gamecocks since the 1990s.

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