Clearly, largely due to the injury to Dominique Archie and the dismissal of Mike Holmes, this season has turned out to be a big disappointment. However, the Gamecocks remain a competitive team, largely due to the phenomenal play of Devan Downey. If Downey maintains his pace and we get better play from role players, we still stand to win a few more games and potentially upset one or more of the big boys.
This all being the case, what exactly do the Gamecocks have to do to make it to the postseason? Let's take a closer look at what's required.
NCAA Tournament. To make the NCAAs, we would likely need to win at least 10 in the SEC AND win an SEC tournament game. That would put us at at least 20 wins, which might be enough depending on the quality of the field. It of course wouldn't guarantee us anything, considering what happened last year. However, I think it would get us there this time around, as those wins would likely include at least one victory each against highly ranked UK and UT teams. The SEC is stronger this year than last and I don't foresee a 20-win team being left out again.
NIT. We likely need at least 17 wins to get one of the last at-large bids to the NIT. That means that we need to win at least six more of our eleven games. Winning slightly less than that and making a deep run in the SECT would also probably get us to the NIT.
CBI. If we can finish at .500 or so and don't get into the NIT, the CBI is a possibility. There is also a new tournament called the CIT, but my understanding is that the CIT pursues good mid-major programs.
Now, what are our chances of doing these things? Our remaining games include the following: two vs. Kentucky, two vs. Tennessee, two vs. UGA, one vs. Florida, one at Vandy, one vs. 'Bama, one vs. Mississippi St., and one at Arkansas. Out of that I see two likely losses to Kentucky, one at Tennessee, and one at Vandy. I see tossups at home vs. Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi St. and at UGA. I would say the games vs. UGA, 'Bama, and at Arkansas are likely wins, although certainly none will come easy. That means that I see us at best going 18-12 in the event that we win all the tossup games. That's unlikely, though, as we'll probably lose at least one of those, meaning that 16-14 or 17-13 is more likely. Bombing in the tossup games or losing one of the probable wins could mean that we finish at .500 or worse.
If this turns out to be the case, a trip to the NIT or CBI are in our future. I think the NCAAs are out of the question unless we suddenly become a much better team than we are right now or we find some magic in the SECT. 16 or 17 wins, though, seems eminently feasible.
While another trip to one of the consolation-prize tourneys might seem unattractive to us, I think it's a possibility we should embrace this year. This team was dealt a tough hand losing Archie and Holmes, and finishing above .500 would speak to its perseverance and Darrin Horn's coaching abilities. Making one of these tourneys would also give our young players some useful postseason experience.