Show Me My Opponent, 2020-21: South Carolina

Firstly, a very happy Ash Wednesday and Lent season to all who celebrate. I can’t wait for the first fish fry.

Secondly, there is a game tonight that was supposed to be played last night. I’m going ahead and letting you all know that, as of now, I have no idea if anyone will be out on Tennessee’s end. I have an idea via some local media hints, but the actual on-the-record announcement will not come until about an hour before tonight’s fixture. Be patient if I refer to a player that isn’t actually playing tonight; I have as much of a clue as you do as to their availability.

Anyway, it really is amazing how much one Final Four run can cover up. Frank Martin has still only made one NCAA Tournament in eight seasons at South Carolina, with this number very likely to grow to one in nine. To Martin’s credit, that’s the same number of NCAAT bids as the Gamecocks had from 1999 to 2012 prior to him becoming head coach, but I think pretty much everyone believed this would be a more successful pairing. Through 8.5 seasons, Martin has fewer 20+ win seasons (two) than Dave Odom (three), hasn’t had an offense rank better than 91st, and, again, has just the one NCAA Tournament run.

But that one run resulted in a Final Four the school will remember forever. It’s amazing how one small sample size can cover up a lot of forgettable moments in the much larger sample size. Fandom is a strange thing.

Game Information:

  • THE OPPONENT: South Carolina (5-9, 3-7).
  • THE TIME: 9 PM ET.
  • THE CHANNEL: SEC Network.
  • THE ANNOUNCERS: Tom Hart (PBP) and JON SUNDVOLD!!! (color). The most relaxing voice in the game.
  • THE SPREAD: Tennessee -11.5.

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NEXT PAGE: Cities in South Carolina, ranked: 1. Charleston 2. Greenville 3. (void)

Show Me My Opponent: South Carolina (#2)

I guess at this point we’ve got to accept that South Carolina is just going to tank November/December in order to play well against SEC opponents. Tell me I’m wrong.

  • November/December: 8-5, losses to Boston U and Stetson; #107 on Torvik
  • January-present: 7-4, two wins over KenPom Top 50 teams; #31 on Torvik

The exact same thing happened last year, where South Carolina looked like the second-worst team in the SEC for two months and then turned it on for conference play only. This leads to some confusion among the generic SEC basketball fan, who sees “South Carolina, 15-9 (7-4)” and thinks “NCAA Tournament, yeah?” No! Nay, I will not let you fall for this again! South Carolina currently has as many losses against Quadrant 4 teams (two) as it does wins against Quadrant 2. Torvik gives them about a 10% chance of eventually making the Field of 68. None of the 79 bracketeers making up the current edition of the Bracket Matrix are brave enough to list South Carolina among their 68 teams.

And yet: while watching South Carolina take advantage of a horrifying offensive start by Georgia to defeat the Bulldogs (can we talk about Tom Crean?), I noticed something. For the first time all season, the SEC Network coverage team has started to list South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament resume in-game.

Good for the Gamecocks; generally, I think every single fan base should get excited about potentially making the Field of 68, even those who have made it for several seasons in a row and have greater expectations. I think their players should be excited, too! I just gotta see more, you know? You don’t erase a home loss to KenPom #285 Stetson with a pair of one-possession wins over Kentucky and Arkansas, especially in this particularly paltry edition of SEC basketball.

NEXT PAGE: Thinking about “Can’t Hardly Wait” by the Replacements, as in I Can’t Hardly Wait for SEC basketball to rid itself of boring squads like the 2019-20 Gamecocks