South Carolina Basketball: Where the Gamecocks stack up in the rankings

Lamont Paris' South Carolina basketball squad could make an intriguing case for the NCAA Tournament when all is said and done.

South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris
South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina basketball fans have had a good November and December.

Dawn Staley's team is 10-0 and ranked #1 in the country. Despite allegations of a "rebuilding year" being in the books for the 2023-2024 season, USC is set to be one of the favorites to win it all yet again when this year's NCAA Tournament comes around in March.

However, this article is about those Gamecocks. Everyone knows that Coach Staley's team is elite.

No, this article is about the surprise men's basketball team in Columbia.

Lamont Paris, in year two of his time in garnet and black, has his South Carolina basketball squad sitting at an improbable 9-1 with good wins over Grand Canyon and Virginia Tech at neutral sites, home wins over Notre Dame and George Washington, and a true road victory over East Carolina.

With a very likely 12-1 record incoming as the Gamecocks begin SEC play in January, South Carolina basketball fans are starting to do something dangerous: they are starting to believe.

They aren't the only ones who have noticed that the Gamecocks are off to a nice start this season, however.

The Gamecocks are not ranked in the traditional AP poll, but they have received top-25 votes from some voters over the last four weeks. If the Gamecocks win the rest of their out-of-conference matchups and start SEC play with a win over perennial bubble team Mississippi State, they could find themselves in the top-25 for the first time since the Final Four season of 2016-2017.

Analysts are somewhat split on Coach Paris' team as big-name pundits have differing opinions on the garnet and black. Ken Pomeroy has the Gamecocks 69th in his KenPom rankings and Andy Katz has USC at 29th. 29th is nice number, 69th leaves a bit to be desired.

The NET rankings (one of the major metrics consulted by the NCAA Tournament selection committee) have the Gamecocks sitting in the 41 spot. Considering the fact that 68 teams make the Big Dance each year, 41 doesn't feel too bad right now.

The RPI (the metric that preceded the NET as the NCAA Tournament selection committee's favorite) is even higher on South Carolina basketball. The Gamecocks are 19th in RPI, meaning that the RPI views USC as a clear-cut tourney team at this point in the season.

What does that mean right now? Frankly, not much.

However, the impressive metric rankings show that the Gamecocks are doing some things that the metrics like. While wins and losses and strength of schedule are some of the bigger determiners for rising and falling, the NET and RPI both are affected by other factors, as well.

Offensive and defensive efficiencies play a role in the NET. In some of Frank Martin's post-Final Four seasons in Columbia, the Gamecocks' penchant for losing strange out-of-conference games (hello, Stetson and Wyoming) hurt their tournament chances, but their usually pitiful offensive efficiency numbers did, as well.

The Gamecocks also have netted (pun definitely intended) some important strength of schedule victories, too. The quad system* is a little more flexible than traditional strength of schedule, allowing for Carolina's wins over Grand Canyon and Virginia Tech to be worth more than they might have been several years ago.

*Quad 1 Home 1-30 in NET; Neutral 1-50 in NET; Away 1-75 in NET
*Quad 2 Home 31-75 in NET; Neutral 51-100 in NET; Away 76-135 in NET
*Quad 3 Home 76-160 in NET; Neutral 101-200 in NET; Away 136-240 in NET
*Quad 4 Home 161+ in NET; Neutral 201+ in NET; Away 241+ in NET

All in all, the Gamecocks still have plenty of work to do before real conversations about the NCAA Tournament can be had. However, it sure is fun to be able to think about it for the first time in a while.

Next. South Carolina Basketball: What Joe Lunardi's bracketology thinks about the Gamecocks. South Carolina Basketball: What Joe Lunardi's bracketology thinks about the Gamecocks. dark