At first glance, South Carolina men's basketball's 13-12 record leaves a lot to be desired. Overall, they are only one game above .500 with losses to Wyoming and Oklahoma State, who have a combined overall record of 15-35.
But, thanks to an 8-4 SEC record, the Gamecocks are still top five in the SEC basketball standings and have a huge opportunity in front of them. With six games to go in the regular season, South Carolina is tied with Ole Miss for fourth place in the SEC.
The fourth place slot in the standings is important because it means that the Gamecocks would receive a double bye in the SEC Tournament, ensuring that the Gamecocks won’t play their first SEC Tournament game until the quarterfinal round.
With a more favorable schedule in their last six games of the regular season, it’s hard for fans to not look ahead.
In the Gamecocks’ last six games of the season, they are set to take on Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Missouri, Texas A&M and Georgia. Their combined SEC record is 27-45.
The Gamecocks have beaten each of these teams once already, except for Alabama who South Carolina only plays once this year.
But what's just as important is who South Carolina doesn't play.
Despite being tied for fourth place in the SEC, South Carolina has yet to lose to a team placed below them in the conference.
All of South Carolina’s losses have been to the teams above them in the SEC standings: Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU. They have lost to Tennessee twice, in addition to losing to Kentucky and LSU on the road. All of those teams were ranked, with Tennessee being ranked No. 1 in both matchups.
With none of those teams on the Gamecocks’ schedule for the remainder of the regular season, South Carolina’s march to the post-season is not quite as daunting as it once looked. In addition, that 13-12 record isn’t quite as bad as it seems, especially since the conference tournament has yet to take place.
Conference tournaments can be a boost for teams like South Carolina who have been a bit inconsistent as a whole, making the final six-game stretch for the Gamecocks even more important.
But it all starts with the next opponent, which, of course, is the team right next to them in the coveted No. 4 spot — the Ole Miss Rebels.
Beat Ole Miss at home, and the Gamecocks are in a good position for both the SEC Tournament and the postseason.
But even with a more favorable schedule, the Gamecocks still can't take anything for granted. No matter who it is, the SEC has been physical all year and will continue to be with the depth of teams that the conference has.
No one knows this more than men's basketball head coach Frank Martin.
“This league’s gotten ridiculous right now,” Martin said to SEC Network. “The challenge to figure out a way to win is really, really difficult, and it’s top to bottom, it’s not just the bottom teams or the middle teams.”
But if the Gamecocks can figure out that challenge, which they have more often than not this season thanks to players like AJ Lawson and Chris Silva, the Gamecocks could be in a great position going forward, adding to their unexpected conference turnaround.