Gamecocks enter SEC tournament with empty dance card

USC hopes to end embarrassing tourney skid

dcloninger@thestate.comMarch 11, 2014 

South Carolina's Brenton Williams

GERRY MELENDEZ — Gerry Melendez

  • GAMECOCKS VS. TIGERS

    WHO: USC (12-19) vs. Auburn (14-15)

    WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday

    TV: SEC TV (WKTC 4 in Columbia)

    WHERE: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

    USC’s probable starters: G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Fr. (13.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Brenton Williams 6-1 Sr. (15.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg); F Michael Carrera 6-5 So. (6.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F Mindaugas Kacinas 6-7 So. (5.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Demetrius Henry 6-9 Fr. (4.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

    Auburn’s probable starters: G Tahj Shamsid-Deen 5-10 Fr. (9.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg); G KT Harrell 6-4 Jr. (18.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg); G Chris Denson 6-2 Sr. (19.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg); F Allen Payne 6-6 Sr. (7.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg); F Asauhn Dixon-Tatum 7-0 Sr. (5.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg)

    NEXT: Winner plays Arkansas at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

There is no bubble. There is no looking at other teams’ results. There is no “Do this, and you should be OK.”

There’s just one word for South Carolina as it starts the SEC tournament.

“Win.”

The Gamecocks have to win the SEC tournament or their season is over. At 12-19, USC isn’t going anywhere unless it wins the tournament and grabs the league’s automatic pass to the NCAA tournament.

“It’s not win five in five, it’s win one in one,” coach Frank Martin said. “If you look at it as win five in five days, you got no chance. We got to go win one more time.”

“One more time” would be USC’s first SEC tournament win since 2008. Only Arkansas has a streak that long, even with Texas A&M and Missouri joining the league last year. Each of them won a tournament game in 2013 while USC again didn’t get a chance to unpack its suitcases.

The Gamecocks know their history in the SEC tournament (16-22 with six appearances in the semifinals). They know they’re the only team in the pre-expansion SEC to never win the conference tournament. They know their recent shoddy showings.

As a college coach, Martin has never won a tournament facing such long odds, but he remembers doing it in high school when his fans had lost faith. He’s stressing to his team to beat Auburn on Wednesday night, then worry about what’s ahead.

Brenton Williams, the team’s only senior, agreed.

“I’m definitely not trying to look at it as the bigger picture of we’ve got to win five,” Williams said. “It’s just a matter of us going out there and playing and doing the things that we saw, that we struggled with on film, doing that a lot better to win the game. And then we’ll prepare for the next team as the tournament goes on.”

USC's five-game SEC tourney skid

MISSISSIPPI STATE 70, USC 59
2013, Nashville
: After beating the Bulldogs in Columbia the week before, USC falls to an MSU squad that has six scholarship players.

ALABAMA 63, USC 57
2012, New Orleans
: The Gamecocks complete a 10-21 year, one of the two losingest seasons in program history. Darrin Horn is fired five days later.

OLE MISS 66, USC 55
2011, Atlanta
: A youth-stocked season ends with a youth-stocked defeat. Bruce Ellington declares, “No. No, sir, I’m not,” when asked if he’d be playing football the next year.

ALABAMA 68, USC 63
2010, Nashville
: Devan Downey’s last game. An 18-point lead disappears as USC scores one field goal in the final 11:38. Downey misses the front end of two free throws in a two-point game with 18.3 seconds to go.

MISSISSIPPI STATE 82, USC 68
2009, Tampa
: USC wins 21 games and the SEC East, but a weak non-conference schedule and a loss in its first tournament game sends it to face Stephen Curry and Davidson in the NIT. The NCAA tournament hadn’t ignored a 10-win SEC team since 1992 until USC and Auburn in 2009.

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