Go ahead and give it to me.”
------------- TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS
South Carolina’s basketball schedule has been looked at more times than Kate Upton’s last photoshoot, but is finally starting to see a completion. We could even see a full schedule by the end of the week, barring Wossamotta U. not pulling another end run and forcing the hoops staff to begin thinking of scheduling the local YMCA champion.
The SEC schedule was released and after perusing it a few times, I deem it conducive to what the Gamecocks want, and need, with a roster full of newcomers. Of course there are pitfalls, of course there are stretches where USC is going to have to show some serious chops to keep its head above water, but with a few breaks, the Gamecocks could break even and perhaps flirt with a postseason tournament.
Keep in mind that the rest of the non-conference slate has yet to be announced, so I have no idea if a 9-9 record in the SEC and a strong RPI would be enough for an overall .500 record or not. But the SEC schedule by itself can be handled.
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Here it is, if you missed it earlier:
Jan. 8 at Florida, 7 p.m.* (CSS)
Jan. 11 LSU, 1:30 p.m* (SEC Network)
Jan. 15 at Texas A&M, 8 p.m.* (SEC Network)
Jan. 18 OLE MISS, 4:30 p.m.* (FSN)
Jan. 22 at Georgia, 8 p.m.* (SEC Network)
Jan. 25 at Missouri, 4 p.m.* (SEC Network)
Jan. 29 TEXAS A&M, 7 p.m.* (ESPN3)
Feb. 1 at Ole Miss, 1:30 p.m.* (SEC Network)
Feb. 5 AUBURN, 7 p.m.* (ESPN3)
Feb. 8 at Tennessee, 3 p.m.* (ESPNU)
Feb. 12 VANDERBILT, 8 p.m.* (SEC Network)
Feb. 15 ALABAMA, 4 p.m.* (SEC Network)
Feb. 19 at Arkansas, 9 p.m.* (CSS)
Feb. 22 GEORGIA, 1:30 p.m.* (SEC Network)
Feb. 26 at Auburn, 9 p.m.* (FSN)
March 1 KENTUCKY, 6 p.m.* (ESPN/ESPN2)
March 4 FLORIDA, 7 p.m.* (ESPNU)
March 8 at Mississippi State, 4 p.m.* (SEC Network)
March 12-16 SEC tournament (Atlanta)
Home games in CAPS
Four of the first six on the road, with the opener away from home for the third straight year and against a team that should be in the preseason Top 10. That’s bad.
Five of the last eight at home, including three of the last five, which is good on the surface. The last two, though, are against the best two teams in the conference. That’s 50-50, or “Ehhhhh .”
USC only plays Kentucky (preseason No. 1, maybe No. 2) once, at home. The Gators appear twice. Potential other NCAA tournament teams this year are Alabama (once, at home), Tennessee (once, on the road),* Missouri (once, on the road)*, Arkansas (once, on the road)* and Ole Miss (twice)*. That’s not great, but with the asterisks (explained below) and considering they could have played 10 combined games against the best of those teams, it’s good.
The Gamecocks have three of the home-and-home series against three of the teams that they want to have home-and-home series against. Georgia was 9-9 SEC but 15-16 overall last year and lost Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Texas A&M was 7-11 SEC, 17-14 overall. Auburn was 3-15 SEC (last in the league) and 9-22 overall. That’s good.
The asterisks: Games that right now, who knows how favored USC will be? This is where trends and other factors come in.
* Tennessee – The Volunteers could have been considered a preseason Top 25 team, but that was counting on Trae Golden returning to the team. He instead transferred to Georgia Tech after a cloudy dismissal. Tennessee could still be very, very good, and then there’s that other thing – USC has lost 12 straight to the Vols, and hasn’t won in Knoxville since 2002.
* Missouri – A great program and a difficult place to play, but the Tigers lost Phil Pressey, Laurence Bowers, Alex Oriakhi and Keion Bell. The “Reload, not rebuild” motto may be in place, or it may be a case of what every other team eventually has to go through – a year where the big talent left and you’ve got to go through this one to get to next one.
* Arkansas – USC beat the Hogs last year, which is good. But this year, the game is in Fayetteville. For the past two seasons, Arkansas has been unbeatable at home and atrocious on the road. Even being decent, like winning five games on the road, could have gotten the Razorbacks to the NCAA tournament over the past two seasons. They couldn’t even muster that.
* Ole Miss – Not surprisingly, the chances for any team to beat the Rebels hinges on whether or not Marshall Henderson is around. He’s reportedly enrolled in classes, doing what he’s supposed to do, but has not been cleared to return to the team. Then again, even with him, USC beat Ole Miss last year.
Jan. 11-22. Starting off at Florida may be quite an unpleasant trip, but the Gamecocks have a chance to immediately feel good about themselves. The home SEC opener is against a good LSU team, but it’s at home, and then a trip to Texas A&M. Ole Miss will be at home, and as with any game the Rebels play this year, opponents hope that will be the one where Henderson screws up again and can’t play. Then a trip to Georgia.
March 1-8. Playing devil’s advocate, USC is fighting to stick to .500 and make a postseason tournament, and gets some help with wins over Georgia and Auburn just before, and gets to come back home. But the final two home games are against Kentucky and Florida, who may be trying to lock down No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. And the final game is at Mississippi State, which strangely played harder and more passionately the less players it had last year.
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