LSU coach Paul Mainieri does not get to decide if South Carolina makes the NCAA tournament, but he made his opinion of the Gamecocks clear following his team’s 11-0 win over USC on Saturday.
Mainieri said he believes Carolina should be in the field when the bracket is released on Monday.
The Tigers won two of three games against USC during the regular season before topping the Gamecocks in an SEC tournament semifinal game as well.
“South Carolina has an excellent team. They had a terrible injury that happened to them when they lost (Clarke) Schmidt. It happened late in the year but it impacted probably the last four weeks of their season. If they’d have won two or three of those games then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion,” Mainieri said.
One argument against the Gamecocks is that they lost eight consecutive series to close the season, but Mainieri believes that stat does not tell the whole story.
“I’m a little disappointed every time that I hear they’ve lost eight consecutive series. To win one game in Gainesville or to win one game in Baton Rouge when you’re on the road, this league is so difficult,” he said. “We won one game in Lexington. We won one game in Gainesville. I was happy we got one win in those places. They’re tough places. It’s a lot easier to get swept in this league than it is to sweep a series. Believe me. And South Carolina never got swept the whole year. And they’ve played the best teams in the country.”
Mainieri went on to say that he was impressed with South Carolina’s run in the SEC tournament and he believes the Gamecocks could go on a similar run in the NCAA tournament.
“I’d ask teams around the country, ‘How many of you would like to have South Carolina in your regional?’ I bet you not too many people would raise their hands knowing that you’re going to be facing (Wil) Crowe and (Adam) Hill and Tyler Johnson coming out of the bullpen. And (Josh) Reagan coming out of the bullpen. And have to get (Carlos) Cortes out,” he said. “Personally I think they deserve it. They play in the toughest league top to bottom in the country. I know it’s a bubble team, but I think they’ve overcome a lot of obstacles and I think they deserve it.”