Four months from now, wins against South Carolina State, Holy Cross and Louisiana Tech will be long forgotten. However, South Carolina's men's basketball still has a chance to make this November memorable for the program and the entire college basketball world.
Following last November, Frank Martin’s squad was 7-0 and winners of the 2015 Paradise Jam Championship in St. Thomas. Despite the early accomplishments, the Gamecocks lacked the wins that would be remembered in March by the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
This season, a 70-69 overtime victory over Monmouth has laid the foundation for the Gamecocks’ resume. With Michigan and Syracuse on tap as the final two games of the month, November has the potential to make an enormous impact in March.
On Nov. 23, the Wolverines will visit Columbia for the fifth matchup between the teams in both programs' histories. The Gamecocks were victorious in the series’ most recent matchup, claiming a 76-64 win in the 2006 NIT Championship Game.
John Beilein’s team claimed the title in the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden with convincing wins over Marquette and SMU over the weekend. The Wolverines are off to a 4-0 start and are a likely candidate to return to the NCAA Tournament in March.
Michigan is a very versatile team. Senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. has the ability to knock down the three-point shot consistently, while 6-foot-10 junior D.J. Wilson can give opponents nightmares in the paint with his interior defense.
A win over the Wolverines would provide an early quality win for the Gamecocks, who managed just one win over the RPI top-50 last season.
A second opportunity for a critical resume-building win comes Saturday, when South Carolina travels to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, to face the Syracuse Orange.
Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense will be a tough early challenge for the Gamecocks. Senior guard Andrew White III leads the Orange with 18 points per game, while forward Tyler Lydon’s seven total blocks are also a team high.
With the Orange ranked firmly in the top 25, this is the best imaginable November win for South Carolina.
Winning both of these games would be ideal, but a split would not be the end of the world. Adding a victory over Michigan or Syracuse to the resume in November would be huge for the Gamecocks, with big games against Seton Hall, Clemson and Memphis on the slate for December.