Frank Martin’s team was in no man’s land just a few weeks ago. Amid their second three-game losing streak in SEC play, South Carolina wasn’t close to thinking about March basketball. Over the last two weeks, the Gamecocks postseason chances have been revitalized by a four-game win streak. The current run has vaulted them up to a tie for fifth in the conference standings. They are tied with Alabama, whom South Carolina travels to face this weekend. The Gamecocks sit at 17-10 overall and 8-7 in the SEC. A strong finish and this team could go from an afterthought to an all-important spot in March Madness.
Gamecocks Postseason Hopes Rise with Win Streak
The victory over Mississippi State on Wednesday was the Gamecocks best performance of the season. They led the game throughout and were excellent on the defensive end. This team is peaking at the right time. They had just beaten a very good LSU team on Saturday. South Carolina has arguably their two best wins of the year in the last five days. They have secured their sixth winning season in the last eight years. For context, the previous four coaches combined for eight winning seasons in 21 years. Now the focus is on finishing strong to secure postseason basketball.
A big part of the Gamecocks postseason chances blossoming recently has been the play of Jermaine Couisnard and Keyshawn Bryant. For different reasons, both guys struggled to play well early in the season. This team needs them to be at their best, and when they are this team can be very good. The win over the Bulldogs pushes the Gamecocks record to 15-2 when either Couisnard or Bryant scores in the double figures. They both did so Wednesday night.
Couisnard is heating up at the perfect time, playing some of the best basketball of his career lately. He is averaging 17 points, four and a half assists, and two steals a game in the last five contests. He has become the epitome of coach Martin’s “Guard and Go” mantra. Couisnard’s awareness of when to push the pace to steal an easy bucket has gotten better as the season has progressed. Whether off a turnover, rebound, or even a made bucket, the junior guard has looked to attack when he sees an opening. His aggressiveness is also opening things up for the rest of his teammates.
Bryant has scored double figures in four of his last five games. He is a walking highlight reel with his explosive ability to finish at the rim. He has started hitting from beyond the arc at a much better rate as well. Bryant has made seven of thirteen threes in the last five contests. He has been a factor on both ends, with over seven rebounds, a steal, and a block per game over that span. This team needs these guys to play well, and they are playing their best ball of the season at the right time.
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South Carolina is not only getting the play they need from their big names, but they are also getting good contributions from up and down the roster. James Reese V and Erik Stevenson have been consistent performers all year. Martin has credited them with renewing not only his enthusiasm, but the spirits of Bryant and Couisnard as well. After last season’s misery, the two veteran transfers have brought loads of energy and competitiveness to this year’s team. Stevenson has become a glue guy for this squad, doing a little bit of everything on a given night. Reese V is the team’s best perimeter defender and has a deadly pull-up jumper from the baseline. Each of these guys can also stretch the defense and get going from beyond the arc.
Freshman Devin Carter is going to be a star in garnet and black. He plays with an aggressiveness and confidence that seems to rub off on his teammates. After a slow start to SEC play, he has scored double figures in five of the last seven games. Carter has also grown his overall game after moving to the point guard position. He gives this team an extra ball-handling option and scoring punch off the bench. Wildens Leveque has struggled of late, after starting the season in good form. Martin needs his big man to break out of his current funk, but the coach has gotten good minutes off the bench from A.J. Wilson and TaQuan Woodley in his stead.
After being left for dead by most as recent as 16 days ago, the Gamecocks postseason possibilities are now right in front of them. They travel to face Alabama on Saturday, giving them another chance to pick up a big resume-boosting win. Historically this program has not played well in Coleman Coliseum. If they can exorcise those demons and grab a victory, they will place themselves firmly on the bubble as March begins. This team is starting to show how good they can be when things are clicking. A strong finish in the final three games and the SEC tournament will not be the only trip the Gamecocks postseason plans will have in store for them.
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