When: Tuesday, February 21st @ 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Exactech Arena, Gainesville, FL
How to watch: ESPN
How to stream: WatchESPN
How to listen: 107.5 The Game
0-3 in their last three relevant athletic contests, and with a quick glance one would think the sky is falling inside the capital city on the University of South Carolina’s athletic program. Settle down. Pump the brakes. And I mean that even as the Gamecocks men’s basketball team, losers of three out of their last four, hits the road to take on SEC front runner Florida in Gainesville on Super Tuesday.
No, South Carolina fans shouldn’t expect a win on the road against a top-15 team tonight. The season also just doesn’t arrive at some screeching halt with a loss to a team playing some of their best basketball of the season and riding the momentum of an eight game winning streak. Don’t lose all hope just yet that this South Carolina team no longer possesses the grit and grind necessary to wear-down any opposition they face on the court as they enter the final four regular season games of the season. And, don’t make any rush judgements even after tonight.
Florida (22-5; 12-2) has benefited from an offensive stimulus throughout their near month long win streak. The Gators have logged 84+ in four of the eight wins, reaching their peak in a 114-point showcase against Auburn. But a 57-point sputter against the Bulldogs Saturday night in Starkville could’ve been the first hint that the Gators’ offense is landing back down to earth as they’re threatened with being without one of their leading scorers in Canyon Barry, who’ll most likely be a game-time decision Tuesday night after rolling an ankle over the weekend.
Couple that with the fact South Carolina has proven able to shut this offense down once already and Florida’s next game (on the road against #11 Kentucky) is their biggest of the season and you’re treated just enough hope to believe the Gamecocks have a chance to make this one ugly enough for a win over a team looking ahead through the present.
Stranger things have happened.
But, don’t let Tuesday’s outcome lead you to any conclusions on this year’s team. Sure as bad as losing four out their last five and winning in suspicious fashion of late looks on paper, there’s still three “winnable” games left following this one against the middle of the SEC. Finish 2-2 in the final four regular season games and win a game at the SEC Tournament and the Gamecocks should still earn a bid to this year’s NCAA Tournament.
I feel like we’ve thought this before?
Yes, there’s still work left to be done as South Carolina hits the home-stretch. But, that was always going to be the case for Frank Martin’s team this year. Hopefully with the burden of expectation lifted slightly off Sindarius Thornwell and his playing partners’ shoulders, maybe South Carolina can right the ship with one final push left in them this season. Maybe, without the pressure to win, the Gamecocks could redeem themselves as spoilers and reach their primary goal entering this year. But, don’t write the script on this year’s squad before it’s over. Let this one play out on the team’s own accord.