Shreyas Saboo / The Daily Gamecock

Column: What Gamecock men's basketball needs to remain a conference threat

Despite an 11-10 record, the South Carolina men's basketball team is ranked fourth in the SEC conference.

South Carolina had some key losses against out-of-conference teams early in the season. However, the team has shown just how responsive it can be when it comes to conference play. 

The team's two conference losses came to two of the top three teams in the SEC, LSU and Tennessee, and gave the Gamecocks valuable experience on how these teams will attack them. 

No matter how much South Carolina prepares for a fast team like Tennessee, that seemingly always attacks on transition, there is no better learning experience than playing the Volunteers. 

Chris Silva exploded on the scene against Tennessee as he dropped 28 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. He proved to be a tremendous rim defender and reliable scorer when needed, although it was not enough to bring home a win.

"The problem with this game and the practice those few days was communication," Silva said. "We didn't have really good communication."

If the Gamecocks communicate better, it will allow help earlier in transition and set up the defense for more success. This would cause earlier rotation, helping defenders who get beat while also setting up their press defense sooner. 

Once the defense is set in half court, the Gamecocks have a surprisingly attentive perimeter defense. But the team cannot rely on Chris Silva alone to protect the inside.

What intrigues some Gamecocks fans is how responsive the team's young players will be going forward. The team will get another opportunity to play against Tennessee on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. 

South Carolina's wins and losses give every member of the team valuable lessons on how to improve. As the season goes on, expect the team to be proactive in changing up its game-plan to better fit SEC teams that South Carolina has experience against. 

When the Gamecocks take and utilize more time from the shot clock on offense, they get better looks at the basket. If the Gamecocks focus on playing a team game, making extra passes and spacing out the floor, they are more likely to make their shots, which limits transition looks on defense.

Once South Carolina makes some small but important adjustments, the future is paved with opportunity to prove to the SEC that the Gamecocks are here to fight and win.

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