David Cloninger

Top 25-bound? South Carolina should be

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Many of the national pundits were already saying it after South Carolina’s 64-50 crushing of Syracuse on Saturday. Come Monday, they said, the Gamecocks will be ranked.

I certainly agree they should be, after beating six postseason teams from a year ago and not struggling to beat two straight Top 25 opponents. But I also know it takes an awful lot of swing voting to go from not getting any votes to getting enough for the Top 25.

I can guarantee you the Gamecocks will get at least one vote, and that’s from the AP basketball voter from the great state of South Carolina. He and I go back a ways and he’s already promised me he’ll vote for USC. We’ll see how many others join him.

Frank Martin, as usual, shrugged it off. He pointed out that USC was ranked for a lot of the season last year and the last time they won in Brooklyn (over No. 9 Iowa State, 2015), they received votes in the next week’s poll.

Then they lost two straight and that ended. So if it happens, great for recruiting and such. If not, lot of season left and USC will keep trying to win every game.

Which means a lot more than a number beside their name in a weekly poll.

Wrapping Syracuse

TURNING POINT

Syracuse trimmed a 12-point deficit to four with 11:38 to play after two Andrew White free throws, but Maik Kotsar finished a great feed from Sindarius Thornwell for a layup and P.J. Dozer cleaned up a Hassani Gravett missed 3-pointer with a jumper. USC was back in front 51-43 … and the teams stopped scoring.

USC missed its next seven shots. Syracuse bricked five straight free throws. Kotsar finished another assist from Thornwell and the win’s foundation was being poured.

3 POINTS

Star of the game: Dozier cooled in the second half, but his first half was exactly why Martin recruited him. He can take over a game if he has to, and his mid-range jumper was giving Syracuse fits. He finished with a double-double (a point guard with 10 boards!) and three steals.

Play of the game: Tough to pick one, but Duane Notice’s 3-pointer, one of only two shots he made Saturday, delivered a double-digit halftime lead.

Stat of the game: The Gamecocks beat Syracuse 30-8 in the paint. That’s absurd considering how much zone the Orange play.

FROM THE BASELINE

Maik Maik Maik: As Martin said afterward, Kotsar doesn’t start because the coaches put the freshmen’s names in a hat and drew out his. He gives USC a real option on the block and he was aggressively attacking the paint for rebounds, although he didn’t get his hands on many. He still looks like a freshman at times – there were a couple of chances where he had the ball under the rim, waited too long and let the Orange set up around him – but he has great touch for a big man and plays hard all the time.

The Gamecocks needed somebody to step up and handle that position from the start and he’s done that.

Pump the brakes: I agree, USC has looked very strong in these first six games. And winning two straight over really good teams, those “name” teams the selection committee always credits you for playing, looks amazing.

But it’s six games in. I’m not dousing the flame because of USC’s team, I’m saying hold off on it strictly because of last year. If that didn’t teach me that nothing is guaranteed, I don’t know what would.

The Gamecocks have height, depth, talent and experience. The veterans are playing their best and the youngsters are each showing why they’re here. I know that this season can bear prize-winning fruit.

Rankings and Bracketologies and knowing there was no way to miss the Dance last year showed us all that yes, there was. As unfair as it was, there was. So don’t think of March right now. Think of November, where USC is 6-0 and playing so well, and about to play again on Dec. 1.

See you at the Colonial, where your soon-to-be-ranked Gamecocks deserve a large crowd. At tipoff, too, not just for the second half.

UP NEXT

Who: South Carolina vs. Vermont

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia

TV: SEC Network Plus

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

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