With nine games remaining in the regular season, South Carolina has little to no margin of error in its quest to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks are 27-19 overall and 11-13 in the SEC with three midweek games and two SEC series remaining.
South Carolina has an RPI of 26, which is working in its favor. The Gamecocks also have the No. 2 strength of schedule in the country and have 10 RPI top 50 wins. Only 12 teams in the country have more top 50 wins than USC.
Also working in South Carolina’s favor is that it hasn’t been swept all season, despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the country.
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But there are also factors working against USC.
The Gamecocks have not won a weekend series since late March, dropping six straight, and USC’s two SEC series wins are against Alabama and Tennessee, two of the three worst teams in the league.
Having a strong RPI helps as far as making the NCAA Tournament, but there is no magic number that guarantees postseason play.
North Carolina had a top 20 RPI in 2016 but was left out of the tournament because of its struggles in the ACC.
The Tar Heels finished 13-17 in the ACC and did not make the conference tournament before being told on selection Monday that they were the last team left out of the field.
So what does South Carolina need to do to avoid falling into the same boat as UNC?
First, the Gamecocks need to take care of business in midweek games. USC faces Presbyterian College on Tuesday, Liberty on Wednesday and USC Upstate next week.
PC has an RPI of 170, while USC Upstate’s is 250. A loss to either of those teams and Carolina’s RPI would take a hit.
Liberty has an RPI of 56, making a win over the Flames helpful for South Carolina’s resume.
In SEC play, the Gamecocks face Missouri this weekend and Georgia next weekend.
USC needs to go 4-2 in those games at worst and get to at least 15-15 in conference play.
The Tigers enter this weekend’s series having lost seven of their past eight SEC games, and Missouri hasn’t won a series since early April against Georgia.
The Bulldogs got off to a horrific start to the season and have struggled throughout but did shock Kentucky by winning two out of three games in Lexington over the weekend.
Still, with the series at home, South Carolina should be favored.
If the Gamecocks can finish the regular season 34-21 (15-15), they will like their chances. Even if USC does have an early exit at the SEC Tournament, its numbers would likely be good enough to get into the NCAA Tournament.
“I think they’re OK if they win these next two series,” Michael Lananna of Baseball America said. “It seems like the magic number for an SEC team is to have 15 wins in SEC play and have an RPI in the top 30. That usually gets the job done.”
If USC can find a way to get at least one sweep over the next two weekends and win both series, the Gamecocks should clinch a spot in the field. At 16-14 or 17-13 in the SEC, USC should be locked in.
But if USC finishes less than .500 in SEC play, the Gamecocks will likely be on the outside looking in come selection Monday unless they are able to make a deep run at the SEC Tournament in Hoover.