Well that was depressing. In the moments after the Georgia loss last night I immediately shot off a furious round of tweets that I now kind of regret:
Only South Carolina loses like that.— David Salley (@dsalley24) March 12, 2016
Yeah we honestly might get left out of the NCAA tournament.— David Salley (@dsalley24) March 12, 2016
Man, I dump a lot of my inner hate onto Twitter. Was my enraged state of mind right, though? Are we seriously going to get left out of the NCAA Tournament at 24-8 and 11-8 in the SEC?
Honest answer: I really don't know. I don't feel super confident either way.
An SEC team with double digit conference wins getting left out of the Big Dance isn't unprecedented - Texas A&M did it just last season and so have seven other teams since 2011. Interestingly, the one, resume-killing thing that all eight of those teams had in common was bad non-conference losses. While South Carolina certainly has several bad SEC losses now, they have exactly zero bad non-conference defeats. Everyone always says the conference slate is the real season, but that undefeated record to start the year could end up being huge for the Gamecocks on Selection Sunday.
Also in South Carolina's favor is the fact that three of those eight SEC losses came to Georgia and this last one came without Michael Carrera. Granted, I hate Georgia and last night's loss is still a gaping, open wound, but the people on the selection committee are not stupid (let's see if I'm still saying that on Sunday). Seeing three losses to the same team when you've won 24 games should immediately jump out as a bad match up for the Gamecocks. Sure, it would look better if those three losses had been to Kentucky instead, but the principle remains the same. Even the best teams in the country have teams they matchup against poorly. Ours just happened to be UGA. It's also worth noting that the Arkansas victory without Carrera could end up being a very valuable win when it's all said and done. It was on the road, without our best player and it stopped the Razorbacks four-game winning streak.
For what it's worth, even the experts seem split on the Gamecocks resume right now. I would say the consensus leans slightly towards "in" but it is closer than we would all like.
Georgia has 0 top 50 wins, is 6-11 v top 100. But it beat South Carolina three times. What's the argument for taking Gamecocks over Dawgs?— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 12, 2016
There is no monster under your bed. There is no bubble for the #Gamecocks. They're in. Get excited. See you Sunday.— Andy Demetra (@GamecockRadio) March 12, 2016
South Carolina should be OK when the NCAA tourney field is announced Sunday, but a strength of schedule ranking of 157 is a bit unnerving.— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) March 12, 2016
Also, Saint Mary’s now has one more top-50 win than South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ resume really doesn’t look great, right now.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) March 12, 2016
Based on overall body of work, Gamecocks deserve to be in NCAA Tourney. But I don't trust the selection committee. Never have, never will.— Scott Hood (@ScottHood63) March 12, 2016
As of yesterday, Joe Lunardi of ESPN had the Gamecocks as an 8-seed. Even with the loss to Georgia, an 8-seed gives you some breathing room. At the end of the day, South Carolina is 8-4 against the RPI top 100 and beat a top-10 Texas A&M team on the road. Sure, the strength of schedule looks bad on paper and our RPI has slipped, but 24 wins is still 24 wins. With a gun to my head, I would expect South Carolina to end up as either a 10-seed or an 11 playing in Dayton's First Four, but nothing is guaranteed at this point. The Gamecocks have played themselves squarely onto the bubble, which leaves only one certainty now: the Selection Show will be nerve-racking for the first time in a decade.