South Carolina Basketball: What is 1st place Gamecocks' place in the NCAA Tournament?

South Carolina basketball is in 1st place in the SEC and is flying up the NCAA Tournament bracketology projections.

South Carolina basketball stars Ta'Lon Cooper and Myles Stute
South Carolina basketball stars Ta'Lon Cooper and Myles Stute / Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA
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South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris has done the unthinkable. After being projected as the worst team in the Southeastern Conference by the SEC media and virtually every other outlet, the Gamecocks are now at the top of the league standings.

A three-way tie between South Carolina basketball, the Auburn Tigers, and the Alabama Crimson Tide has all three teams sitting at 8-2 in conference play, but it is the Gamecocks who own the league's best overall record at 20-3. Now ranked 15th, USC is slated to play the Vanderbilt Commodores this weekend and should be 21-3 heading into a big-time matchup on the road against Bruce Pearl's Auburn squad next Wednesday.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion at this point that Coach Paris and his guys will make their way to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2016-2017 Final Four season. The Gamecocks are playing for seeding, and right now, that projected seeding is improving by the week.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi released his updated NCAA Tournament field, and he has South Carolina basketball as a 5-seed in his current projection. He also noted that the 'Cocks are a team on the rise.

If USC were to be selected as a 5-seed in this year's March Madness, it would be the best seed for a South Carolina basketball team since the back-to-back 2 and 3 seed teams after the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons, respectively.

However, there is a very real path for the Gamecocks to do even better than a 5-seed.

Both Tennessee and Auburn are ahead of Carolina in the current projection from Lunardi, and both teams are on the upcoming schedule. The game against the Tigers is on the road, but the Volunteers have to travel to Columbia. Picking up a win or two in those games would go a long way in earning a top-4 seed.

USC will be favored at home against Vanderbilt, LSU, and Florida and could be favored over Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and/or Mississippi State on the road.

The Gamecocks will take their 6-game winning streak (the longest since the team won the 1996-1997 SEC Championship) into Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.

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