USC Men's Basketball

What ESPN’s top bracketologist said about South Carolina, Clemson, Wofford and Furman

The state of South Carolina will definitely be represented in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. That much was assured Monday when Wofford beat UNCG to win the Southern Conference, giving the Terriers an automatic bid to the Big Dance.

So who’s going to join them? Clemson? Frank Martin’s Gamecocks? Does Furman still have a shot?

Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s resident “bracketologist,” was on a national teleconference with reporters Wednesday. He analyzed all four of the Palmetto State’s teams vying to play next week.

South Carolina

The good: 11 SEC wins and a fourth-place finish in one of the nation’s toughest conferences

The bad: An 16-15 overall record with non-conference losses to Wyoming, Stony Brook and Oklahoma State

What Lunardi said about the Gamecocks: “Anything short of winning (the SEC Tournament), I think they will come up short (of the NCAA Tournament). Are there scenarios where we could get them in the conversation with a couple wins, the right path, et cetera? I just don’t think they won enough of the right games to be realistically in the conversation at this point.

“The committee has gotten wiser over the years at looking at these unbalanced schedules in league. And the 11-7 just isn’t going to carry the weight that it may have kind of blindly carried or rolled out a bit of a red carpet for them in the past. .... There’s the example of Nebraska last year at 13-5 (in the Big Ten) not only not getting into the NCAA Tournament, they didn’t even get into the top half of an NIT bracket.

“So I am not optimistic about South Carolina at this point.”

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The good: 19-12 overall record, 9-9 ACC record

The bad: 1-9 record vs. “Quadrant 1” teams

What Lunardi said about the Tigers: “I have to be clear, Clemson’s one of those team where, if I were voting, it differs from what I’m projecting. There’s little or no circumstance where I would vote Clemson in at this point, with a 1-9 record against the first quadrant. The ACC clearly this year has haves and have-nots with maybe Clemson and N.C. State with a foot in each camp. And both have really built up their 9-9 records against the bottom half of the league.

“If you can’t win some games against other tournament-level teams, then I don’t know how realistically you can be considered a tournament team. But until the committee leaves out a .500 ACC team, then I have to project what I think they’re going to do. That makes (Wednesday’s) game enormous obviously between Clemson and N.C. State. I think the winner will get in the tournament and the loser will not.”


The good: 29 wins and a top 15 NET ranking

The bad: Not much. Just a matter of where Wofford is seeded at this point.

What Lunardi said about the Terriers’ seeding potential: “I have them as a 7. I would love to see them as a 6. I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think it’s more likely that they’ll be in an 8-9 game based upon how the committee has looked upon situations like this in the past.

“But I’m going to be stubborn because I think they’re better than that.”

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The good: 25 wins, including an upset of Villanova in November

The bad: Finishing in third place in the Southern Conference and not making it past the semifinals of the league tournament

What Lunardi said about the Paladins: “If I were to rank the at-large candidates in the Southern Conference, I would actually place (UNCG) ahead of Furman because they beat them in the conference tournament for one thing, And, two, they finished two games ahead of them in the regular season. So I think that part would be easy.

“So in Furman’s case, what you’re really saying is there would have to be three teams from the Southern Conference for them to make it. And I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that’s not going to happen.”

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Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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