Gamecocks left out of NCAA Tournament projection

Lamont Paris and the South Carolina basketball program have gone from an afterthought on the hardwood to a legitimate postseason contender. The Gamecocks were the sixth seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament after a record 26 wins, and based on the moves USC made this offseason, there is optimism that Carolina will be a very good team again in the 2024-2025 season will be.

However, not everyone seems to agree that the Gamecocks are set for another big year.

In recent weeks, CBS Sports College basketball analyst Jon Rothstein has dropped South Carolina basketball from his “Rothstein 45” rankings, but he’s reversed course a bit and included the Gamecocks in his list of SEC teams with legitimate NCAA Tournament prospects -aspirations.

James Fletcher of On3, however, did not have such a favorable view of Coach Paris’ selection. The national analyst published its “way too early statements” and did not include Carolina in the expected field of 68 teams.

Fletcher didn’t dismiss the Gamecocks entirely, as he named them as one of his “first four out” teams. Ten SEC teams (the Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, Texas A&M Aggies, Tennessee Volunteers, Arkansas Razorbacks, Kentucky Wildcats, Florida Gators, Ole Miss Rebels, Texas Longhorns and Missouri Tigers all made Fletcher’s NCAA Tournament projection, while South Carolina Gamecocks and Mississippi State Bulldogs were part of the “first four out” Alabama was the top overall seed in the mock bracket.

Fletcher did not provide a reason for USC’s exclusion from the field, but with Carolina falling just outside the 68-team bracket, it appears he believes there is a realistic path to March Madness for the Gamecocks.

The SEC will likely challenge the Big East’s record of 11 tournament teams in a single season next March, and South Carolina basketball will be part of the chase. Fletcher’s inclusion of the Missouri Tigers is somewhat unique compared to other tournament projections, but the other nine schools in his field have been consistently in the discussion. The Oklahoma Sooners, Mississippi State Bulldogs and Georgia Bulldogs all appear to be realistic postseason contenders as well.

If South Carolina basketball does indeed return to the field, this will be the Gamecocks’ first back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament since the 1990s.

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