It's been the goal every year since Devan Downey walked on campus. But after the way last season ended, the South Carolina star was even more emphatic this time.
At a minimum, this team wants to make the NCAA tournament.
"I'm not gonna avoid that. That's our team goal," Downey said. "If we don't do that, I failed as a leader."
The USC basketball team begins practice today with its best shot to reach the Big Dance since 2004, the last time the Gamecocks made it.
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Downey, a two-time first-team All-SEC pick, is among four starters back from a team that finished 21-10 and won 10 games in the SEC last season, but they missed the NCAAs after losing four of their final five games.
When Downey and forward Dominique Archie elected to return for their senior years, the expectations ramped up.
But the SEC also has improved, Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn pointed out.
"It's funny. You look around the country, and from the reports that have been given to me, we're anywhere from fourth to fifth in our own division. But if you run into somebody on the street in Columbia, it's going to be the best team ever," Horn said.
"I don't know where the answer is. I'd rather be best team ever, but I think for this team, it's going to be really important not to get caught up in either of those."
The Gamecocks open the season on Nov. 13 when they play host to Alabama A&M.
Part of the next month will be spent figuring out who will fill the lone vacant starting spot after the graduation of shooting guard Zam Fredrick.
But Horn said that would fit in with the larger picture of tinkering with lineups: They could play "huge" with the 6-foot-2 Brandis Raley-Ross or Ramon Galloway at the point and a 6-7 player (Archie or Austin Steed) at shooting guard.
The improved depth, thanks to four newcomers, helps that. During a workout this week, they toyed with having Sam Muldrow and Johndre Jefferson, both listed at 6-foot-9, playing at the same time.
"Those are all things that coaches love to sit around and move the salt-and-pepper shaker and draw on the board, but you don't really know until you get into practice," Horn said. "I think that's one of the things that is exciting about this year. We've got a lot of things that we're eager to discover about our personnel."