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SEC Tournament Preview: Gamecocks open play against fifth-seeded Auburn

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The well-rested Gamecocks go up against one of the league’s toughest teams.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 seed South Carolina (16-15, 11-7 SEC) vs. No. 5 seed Auburn (23-9, 11-7)

Start time: 3:30 p.m.

TV: SEC Network

Live stream: watchespn.com

How they got here

After enduring a bizarre and frankly horrendous start to the season with a brutal out-of-conference performance, the Gamecocks righted the ship and enjoyed a successful SEC campaign. By virtue of those efforts, South Carolina locked up a top four finish in the conference standings and was awarded a double-bye into the tournament’s quarterfinal round, where they now meet the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn, currently ranked 22nd nationally, has had a very successful season and looked like one of the league’s best teams until a small swoon in SEC play that included a shocking upset loss to our own Gamecocks. The Tigers were unable to beat Kentucky or LSU, but they did notch a victory over Tennessee. Thanks in part to South Carolina’s head-to-head win, Auburn was left to open SEC Tournament play a day earlier.

Last time out

The Tigers faced Missouri in second-round action, prevailing 81-71, but it was not without some effort. 12th-seeded Mizzou stayed within striking distance, at one point leading by four in the second half, but Auburn star and second-team All-SEC selection Bryce Brown scored all 17 of his points in the period to help ensure a victory for the Plainsmen.

In the Gamecocks’ previous matchup against Auburn, USC came away with an 80-77 upset over the then-No. 16 Tigers in Columbia. Chris Silva was unstoppable, notching a career-high 32 points and 14 rebounds, Hassani Gravett made three of his six 3-pointers, and Felipe Haase, of all people, had a clutch trey of his own to ice the win.

South Carolina faces a tough task to get to semifinal Saturday, and a win here would also improve its chances for an NIT appearance. We’ll see if the Gamecocks can pull another rabbit out of their hat against the Tigers.