Gamecocks Hoops Weekly Forecast: 2/22-2/28

Rankings and Lunardi's brackets are out. We're still receiving some votes in both polls and are getting the third most in the SEC, behind LSU and Florida and ahead of Kentucky. Lunardi has us as an 11 seed taking on Syracuse. Seth Emerson takes a look at some of the other bracketologists here; all the important ones have us in, but they disagree on what our seeding will be. Like Emerson, I think we're in if we split down the stretch and win at least one in the SEC Tournament. If we do better than that, we'll be in for sure and will receive a relatively favorable seeding.

Up this week are rematches with Kentucky and Vandy, who will be looking to avenge losses to us earlier in the season. In addition to these games, Gamecocks fans should also pay attention to games between Florida-LSU, Mississippi State-Tennessee, and LSU-Kentucky. LSU and State can do us some huge favors in the Eastern Division race by winning these games. Florida-LSU is probably the most significant of these; we control our destiny with the Cats and Vols, but we need help to finish ahead of the Gators.

Kentucky

This isn't a must-win game as far as getting into the NCAAs, but it probably is if we want to win the East. What do we need to do to beat the Cats again? Getting the kind of production in terms of turnovers and offensive boards that we got in Rupp would be a good start. It would also be nice to see us shoot a little better than we have the past few games. Devan Downey will be our go-to guy in this game; the Cats play very pedestrian perimeter defense and don't have anyone that's fast enough to guard Downey off the dribble. Defensively, our biggest matchup problem will be against Patrick Patterson. We don't really have anyone that can defend him, and he played well against us in Rupp. Making sure that Jodie Meeks doens't explode for 40 or 50 points would also be nice, but we handled him pretty well last time, and I'm hoping we can again.

Vanderbilt

Before losing at Florida last weekend, the 'Dores looked to have turned the corner after a weak midseason stretch in which star center A. J. Ogilvy was largely ineffective due to a lingering injury. Will Vandy return to form when we travel to Nashville? You can never count them out in Memorial Gym, that's for sure. However, even with Ogilvy, this team still lacks offensive consistency. They lack the shooters they've had in the past, and while Ogilvy gives them a constant threat in the post, he's had trouble getting as many good looks this year as he did last year when he had sharpshooter Shan Foster opening things up for him. Moreover, this is another team that lacks the kind of perimeter defense needed to slow us down. This game will be tough, but it's one that a team looking to make a late-season NCAAs push should be able to win.

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