In 2015, the tournament moves from Atlanta to Nashville where the action gets started tonight at Bridgestone Arena, in the heart of the Music City.
Before the Gamecocks get started, Auburn and Mississippi State face-off at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network in the 12-13 game. South Carolina, as the 11th seed, takes on last-place Missouri shortly after the Tigers and Bulldogs finish up.
USC surprised fans and foes last season in the SEC Tournament as they won two games, taking down Auburn and then following it up with a win vs. Arkansas. The Auburn win was the program's first win in the SEC tourney since 2008 and the Arkansas victory marked the first time South Carolina had multiple conference tournament wins since 2006. Big performances by then-freshman Duane Notice and then-sophomore Laimonas Chatkevicius led the way. Notice scored a then-career high 23 points in the opening round versus the Tigers and averaged 14 points per game over the course of the three ball games. In both of Carolina's wins, Chatkevicius collected 10 rebounds and played efficiently on both ends.
Most recently, the Gamecocks notched a mind-stopping win. They actually won a basketball game in Knoxville. Led by Michael Carrera (14 points and seven boards), South Carolina beat Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time since 2002 and broke a 15-game UT win streak in the series. Senior Tyrone Johnson had another stellar game, dishing out five assists, shooting 50 percent from the floor, and locking down Tennessee's guards.
South Carolina and Missouri have already met once this season, a 65-60 USC win on February 10 in Colonial Life Arena. The two schools had met just three times in history with the Tigers winning all three. In the last contest, South Carolina, weak due to injuries, outlasted Missouri, weak due to suspensions, in a game that was close for far too long considering the disparity in talent.
The Tigers are lead by sophomore forward Johnathan Williams III, who leads the team in points (12.0) and rebounds (7.0). Sophomore guard Wes Clark, the Tigers go-to scorer, suffered a gruesome elbow injury earlier in the year against South Carolina and it has sidelined him ever sense.
The Tigers have impressive home wins in their last five games against Auburn and Florida. Freshman guard Namon Wright scored 28 points in the team's home win versus the Gators. That's one of the lone highlights the Tigers have had in Kim Anderson's first season as head coach.
South Carolina enters with the third scoring defense in the SEC as well as ranking in the top 20 in field goal percentage defense in the nation (38.8 percent). That defense has been there all year but the reason USC has been competitive in just about every game over the last few weeks is the improved play on offense. In the Gamecocks final three games, they shot 49.3 percent from the field, registering two games with 50+ percent shooting performances against Arkansas and Tennesse.
The six SEC wins the Gamecocks have accumulated this year are the most since the 2010 season and they hope to add more to that total over the course of the week.
The approximate starting time is 9:30 p.m. ET but the game will simply tip shortly after the conclusion of Auburn-Mississippi State. Dave Neal and former USC head coach Darrin Horn will have the call on the SEC Network. If the Gamecocks were to win and advance, they'd face-off with the Ole Miss Rebels at 9:30 p.m. ET tomorrow night on the SEC Network.