No. 22 South Carolina (13-0) at Auburn (7-5)
WATCH: 7:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Conference play separates the pretenders from the contenders, and that's exactly where we will find out just how good this South Carolina team is.
The Gamecocks officially swept their nonconference slate over the weekend after disposing of Memphis at home. The physical, tightly contested match-up produced 68 fouls and 99 free throw attempts. USC set new school records for free throws made and free throws attempted in Saturday's bout.
South Carolina opens SEC play Tuesday night on the road against the Auburn Tigers. USC has used a 13-0 nonconference run to rise to No. 22 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll. The Gamecocks produced similar early season success last year, going 9-3 and defeating a highly ranked Iowa State team in Brooklyn. They were unable to carrying the momentum into conference games, losing six of their first seven against SEC foes, beginning with an opening home loss to Florida.
South Carolina is 8-16 all-time in SEC openers but has an unblemished 3-0 mark against Auburn in those games. The Gamecocks last road win in an SEC opener actually came at Auburn in 2010.
The Tigers are coached by Bruce Pearl, a man USC has not beaten since February of 2007. Pearl, in his second season on the Plains, has built Auburn basketball to a respectable level. This year's team however has limped to a 7-5 start thanks to a multitude of injuries.
T.J. Dunans is out for the next several weeks with a severely bruised knee. Tahj Shamsid-Deen has suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him out for some time. Pearl announced that New Williams has been ruled out for Tuesday night's game because of a knee injury. Sophomore guard T.J. Lang suffered a concussion in the Tigers' SEC opener against Tennessee, an 83-77 win. Lang has passed the concussion protocol and even practiced on Monday, but how much he is able to contribute Tuesday night remains up in the air.
With a heavy burden to shoulder, Kareem Canty and Cinmeon Bowers have tried their best to keep this Auburn team competitive. Canty averages 19.3 points per game while leading the team with 5.9 assists per outing, the second best mark in the SEC. Bowers' 9.3 rebounds are a team-high and the fourth highest average in the conference.
Pearl's defense will get after you and they will rebound the basketball. Whether Auburn was healthy or not though, Martin's USC team may be a better version. The Gamecocks rank 10th nationally in total rebounds per game, 13th in field goal percentage defense and 14th in rebound margin.
The Tigers have won six of the last seven meetings, including three straight on their home floor. If South Carolina can play its game amongst the raucous road environment while continuing to get to the line as often as they do, the eighth most times of any team in the country, they should be fine.
A 13-0 start built this team's confidence, but a convincing road win to open SEC play may be more powerful.