Coming off a 75-54 home win Saturday over Arkansas, South Carolina will have a chance on Wednesday night at Florida to win back-to-back Southeastern Conference games for the first time since Jan. 15-19, 2011. In an interesting twist, the first of those two games was at Florida, the second at home against Arkansas.
Of course, beating Florida will be no easy task. The Gators moved up from eighth to fourth in the latest Associated Press rankings, which fluctuate every week in what has been a flawed and unpredictable season for college basketball’s supposed elite teams.
Florida (16-2, 6-0 SEC) is clearly the league’s best team and has won its SEC games by the following margins: 33 over Georgia, 22 over LSU, 21 over Texas A&M, 31 over Missouri, 17 over Georgia and 35 over Mississippi State. That’s just ridiculous, even if Georgia, Mississippi State and LSU aren’t very good and Texas A&M has hit the skids.
The Gators’ losses are at Arizona by one point and against Kansas State in Kansas City by six. Arizona is currently No. 8, Kansas State No. 18. No shame in either of those losses.
But USC has played well lately, and its past two games (a six-point loss at Missouri before the Arkansas blowout) stand as its two best defensive performances of the season. Moreover, the Arkansas win was USC’s first by 20-plus points in an SEC contest since February 2006.
These Gamecocks, in coach Frank Martin’s first season, are clearly a better group (with just some of the same players contributing) than they were in 2011-12, Darrin Horn’s fourth and final season. Yes, USC has added freshman wing player Michael Carrera, but remember that after last season, USC lost its leading scorer, senior wing Malik Cooke, as well as forwards Damontre Harris and Anthony Gill, who both transferred.
Between the Missouri game, a nine-point overtime win at LSU and a two-point loss at Mississippi State, the Gamecocks have acquitted themselves well on the road this season. At 2-4 in league play, they have already won as many games as they did last season (2-14). And at 1-2 in league road games, they have surpassed last season’s 0-8 mark.
Missouri, which was No. 22 when USC played there, is now No. 17. That was Martin’s first game against a ranked team as USC’s coach. Here is a look at what Horn did against ranked teams. All rankings are what the team was at the time of the game …
** 2011-12 (0-6)
No. 1 North Carolina – 25-point loss
No. 2 Ohio State – eight-point loss
No. 2 Kentucky – 15-point loss
No. 19 Florida – 14-point loss
No. 11 Florida – eight-point loss
No. 1 Kentucky – 34-point loss
** 2010-11 (1-6)
No. 2 Michigan State – nine-point loss
No. 2 Ohio State – 22-point loss
No. 24 Vanderbilt – eight point overtime win
No. 12 Kentucky – nine-point loss
No. 24 Vanderbilt – 18-point loss
No. 19 Florida – 19-point loss
No. 22 Kentucky – 31-point loss
** 2009-10 (2-5)
No. 19 Clemson – 11-point loss
No. 24 Mississippi – nine-point loss
No. 1 Kentucky – six-point win
No. 14 Tennessee – 26-point loss
No. 18 Tennessee – eight-point loss
No. 2 Kentucky – 21-point loss
No. 19 Vanderbilt – four-point win
No. 16 Clemson – 11-point loss
No. 20 Baylor – one-point win
** TOTALS …
— Horn was 4-18 vs. ranked teams, with wins over No. 1, No. 19, No. 20 and No. 24.
— USC is currently on a nine-game losing streak against ranked teams dating to the win over No. 24 Vanderbilt in January 2011.
— Since beating No. 1 Kentucky in January 2010, USC is 1-15 against ranked teams.
— If you throw in the fact that Dave Odom was 0-7 and 1-6 against ranked teams in his final two seasons, USC’s record against ranked teams since the start of the 2006-07 season is now 4-32.
USC finished with losing overall records in five of those six seasons from 2006-07 to 2011-12, with the exception being 21-10 in 2008-09, Horn’s first year, which was USC’s best overall record since 23-15 in 2005-06, when the Gamecocks won the National Invitation Tournament for the second straight year. USC has done very little since then.
Of course, history has nothing to do with the result of Wednesday night’s game at Florida. But if the Gamecocks do win, it would certainly be a rare victory for them, and another sign of progress in Year 1 of the Frank Martin Era.