David Cloninger

Gamecocks win, and they’re in

South Carolina forward Sedee Keita (24) blocks the shot of Florida forward Justin Leon (23) on Tuesday.
South Carolina forward Sedee Keita (24) blocks the shot of Florida forward Justin Leon (23) on Tuesday. AP

They obviously would have been helped a lot more with a win, but they weren’t hurt by the loss.

South Carolina lost to a really good team on the road Tuesday. Florida checked in with an RPI of 10, the Gamecocks at 30. That won’t change much and doesn’t affect USC’s status for the NCAA Tournament.

But it was a loss, and that makes three in a row and four of five, and we all know how much finishing a season on a losing streak matters to the selection committee. So the Gamecocks have three games to go, and they are all huge.

And they all must be won if USC is going to the tournament. Win them and go. It’s that simple, no matter what happens in Nashville.

“We’re working to get back to where we (were),” Sindarius Thornwell said. “We’ve been coming the past few days, trying to get better, trying to find our groove. It’s on us older guys to keep the team where we’re at right now.”

Winning all three gives USC a pretty 23-8 record going to Nashville, with quality wins and one really bad loss (Memphis). It would include a win over Tennessee (50 in Tuesday’s RPI).

It would probably keep USC in the top four of the SEC Tournament, meaning the double-bye, although Alabama and Arkansas need to lose to make that comfortable. That keeps the Gamecocks off until the Friday of the tournament, and would put them against a team that has already played one tournament game, and potentially two.

I realize last year and USC’s history has caused plenty of sky-is-falling rhetoric. It’s not good right now, but everything is still in front for the Gamecocks.

They have played themselves up against the wall, but there’s a way out. It’s up to them.

Win and they’re in.

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