Gamecocks (14-9, 5-4) have been able to master the home court advantage with an 11-2 home stand, but they are 3-7 away from the favorable Colonial Life Arena. When Darrin Horn takes his team into Stegemen Coliseum this afternoon, he will be trying to win his second straight game in Athens, following a 65-51 win last season. Overall the Gamecocks are 15-27 in Athens, 1-0 under Horn. The Georgia Bulldogs (10-12, 2-7) lost a one point thriller to South Carolina two weeks ago and should be poised for revenge. However, USC may have more motivation as this game starts a two week stretch where South Carolina will play the Dawgs, Arkansas and Kentucky on the road with only one contest at home following the trip to Fayetteville, against Tennessee. Only 7 regular season games remaining, South Carolina will need at least 5 additional wins to get the magic number 10, SEC wins to have a shot at the NCAA postseason. The reduced field of the NIT would seemingly require an 8-8 conference record to get a possible bid in the concession post-season field. While Athens and Fayetteville are tough places to play, Rupp Arena and Vanderbilt are going to be even harder venues to get a win.
The best scenario for the young men from South Carolina is to stay focused, beat Georgia and Arkansas, hold serve and edge Tennessee at home, play hard as possible in Lexington, surprise Mississippi State at home with solid post play, outplay and manhandle Alabama on their trip to Horn's House and play smart and physical against the Commodores in Nashville. This could be the formula for a 10-6 SEC record, placing the team on the NCAA bubble, a 9-7 giving them an assured trip to the NIT, 8-8 would be a nervous "Selection Sunday" and anything else would be the ultimate disappointing season. A season that was filled with major upsets, exciting plays, buzzer beater finishes and coaching chess matches can only be properly chronicled with a post season appearance.
A loss to Georgia in Athens could start the spoiling touch on and an easily perishable season. Like South Carolina, Georgia is most comfortable at home sporting a 9-3 home record and 1-9 away from Athens. Both teams were upset by Wofford early this season, but both have recorded major upsets, South Carolina over Kentucky and Georgia over Vanderbilt. Throw the records out and remember January 30, when USC came from behind in the second half to steal a victory from the Dawgs in Columbia and protect home court. Stars Devan Downey, Sam Muldrow and Company will have to play well against Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and Associates to continue this quest for a NCAA berth.