Last season, the South Carolina Gamecocks finished the season with a dreadful 11-21 record, tying a program record for losses in one season. This year, head coach Lamont Paris has his South Carolina basketball squad with 11 wins, as well; however, USC has 20 fewer losses.
The 11-1 Gamecocks have one more game (at home against Florida A&M) before SEC play begins, starting the real test of Carolina's progress in year 2 of the Lamont Paris era in Columbia.
South Carolina basketball won just 4 games in conference play in the 2022-2023 season: the wins included a home game against Georgia, a road contest against a woeful LSU team, a road game in Oxford against Ole Miss, and an out-of-nowhere win in Rupp Arena over the Kentucky Wildcats.
With some improvement in that SEC win total this season, the Gamecocks could be in line for NCAA Tournament consideration.
National pundits agree that the Gamecocks are in the discussion as potential participants in the coming March Madness. ESPN's Joe Lunardi, one of the country's most well-respected "bracketologists" has included Carolina in most of his recent Bracketology reports.
In order to reach the Big Dance, Coach Paris' squad will need to win at least 7 or 8 games in SEC play and likely will need to find themselves in the W column 9 or 10 times. With 7 or 8 wins, Carolina would have to go on a nice run in the SEC Tournament to make the NCAA Tourney, but 9 or 10 SEC conference wins would put the Gamecocks firmly in the conversation for an NCAA berth.
South Carolina basketball fans have to feel good about their team's chances to win home contests against Georgia (1/16), Vanderbilt (2/10), and LSU (2/17). After that, every game is difficult.
In looking at the most winnable games, Carolina plays two games against Ole Miss (though, the Rebels are the only team in the SEC with a better record than USC at the moment), another game against Georgia, two games against fellow bubble team Mississippi State, two showdowns with Missouri, and a home contest against bubble squad Florida.
Less-winnable matchups against Tennessee (twice), Kentucky, @Alabama, @Arkansas, @Texas A&M, and @Auburn are on the schedule but are all extremely tough matchups. If last year's bad Gamecock group can beat Kentucky on the road, these games are possible wins even if they should viewed as unlikely ones.
As it stands, the Bracketology numbers have the Gamecocks (11-seed) as one of nine SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament, along with Tennessee (2-seed), Kentucky (4-seed), Auburn (5-seed), Alabama (6-seed), Texas A&M (6-seed), Ole Miss (7-seed), Mississippi State (10-seed), and Florida (10-seed).
Arkansas and Missouri are also major threats to make the Tourney but have picked up too many out-of-conference losses to include in the field right now. Georgia could also make a push as their three losses have come to potential NCAA Tournament teams.
In what is arguably the deepest iteration of the SEC ever, South Carolina basketball will have an uphill battle to go dancing, but the possibility is a realistic one, and realistic optimism is something that Gamecock fans haven't felt in several years.