That team that battled all kinds of adversity to finish fourth in the SEC shouldn’t be out of games to play after the conference tournament.
At least that’s how Frank Martin views his South Carolina Gamecocks after they lost to Auburn in the SEC quarterfinals on Friday.
“I enjoy being at practice with these guys,” Martin said. “I enjoy competing with them. Coaching them has been a whole lot of fun.”
Carolina’s ride won’t continue into the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks, despite the good league showing, are 16-16 overall and far from Big Dance discussion. But if the NIT sends an invite USC’s way, Martin said the Gamecocks would accept.
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“If they call,” Martin said, “I’d love the opportunity to run another ball practice.”
But will they call?
The NIT selection committee, like the NCAA Tournament selection committee, only counts wins and losses against Division I teams. South Carolina was shut out of the NIT last season with a 16-16 record against D-I teams. By those standards, the 2018-19 Gamecocks are 15-16 due to a win over D-II North Greenville on Dec. 31.
The NIT no longer requires a .500 record for a team to get in its 32-team field, but the tournament has also never taken a team with a below .500 record.
“Will they get in the NIT?” tweeted John Templon on Friday after the Auburn loss. “I honestly have no idea.”
Templon is a longtime NIT “bracketologist.” His projections can be found on MidMajorMadness.com. Templon had the Gamecocks in the NIT as a No. 5 seed as of Saturday morning.
“Losing to Auburn is not a bad loss,” Templon told The State. “So I don’t think it’s the type of loss that would push South Carolina out of consideration, but I just don’t know what they would do with that record.”
It’s important to note that the NIT hands out automatic bids to those teams that win their regular season conference title, but fail to win their conference tournament title — and fail to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
As of Saturday morning, VCU (Atlantic 10), Lipscomb (Atlantic Sun), Campbell (Big South), Hofstra (Colonial Athletic Association), Wright State (Horizon), Loyola-Chicago (Missouri Valley Conference), Belmont (Ohio Valley Conference), South Dakota State (Summit), St. Francis (Northeastern) and Sam Houston State (Southland) fit the above profile. Though VCU, Belmont and Lipscomb are still very much in contention to make the Big Dance.
“It would depend a lot on what’s happening around them,” Templon said of USC. “That’s kind of the problem right now.”
Carolina finished 7-14 against “quadrant one” and “quadrant two” competition.
“We didn’t win enough to get into the NCAA Tournament,” Martin said. “Now, are we an NCAA Tournament team today? I say yes. But the bottom line is we didn’t win enough to get into the NCAA Tournament. By me saying that we are doesn’t mean we belong. I’m just saying we’re good enough to be in that. We didn’t do enough early in the year to put ourselves in that situation.
“But I think we got a good team. I think you ask anybody in our league that’s competed against us for the last two months, they’ll tell you we’re worthy of a postseason opportunity.”
The NIT selection show is 8:30 Sunday night on ESPNU.
What: Selection Show
When: 8:30 p.m. Sunday