The second game of the 2015 SEC Tournament tips off in Nashville on Wednesday, March 11, at 9 p.m. ET on the SEC Network, as the No. 11 seeded South Carolina Gamecocks face the No. 14 seeded Missouri Tigers.
South Carolina came into the 2014-15 college basketball season expected to finish around where it did in conference play, but turned some heads and pulled off a few big wins en route to a 15 – 15 (6 – 12) finish. Through surprising upsets and a tough schedule, the Gamecocks end the regular season 11th in conference play, but No. 96 in RPI. Quite an accomplishment for a team expected to struggle coming into the season.
Missouri was voted to finish seventh in the SEC in the preseason media poll, but have by far been the worst team in the conference with a 9 – 22 (3 – 15) record. Kim Anderson is a good coach, but he’s going to have to do something fast for this program, or it could continue on its downward spiral. The good news is that the talent is there and, when it shows up, Missouri competes.
South Carolina is led by Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell in scoring, but it’s the plethora of players who can chip in that makes this team dangerous. You cannot shut down just one or two players and expect to win, as the NCAA Tournament-bound Georgia Bulldogs found out twice this season. The Gamecocks are a legitimate danger to NCAA Tournament hopeful teams in the SEC Tournament.
Missouri was unsurprisingly led by Johnathan Williams III and Wes Clark this season, two players who saw decent playing time last year when the team had a much better roster. However, these two players shouldn’t hog all the spotlight, as freshman Montaque Gill-Caesar showed some flashes of brilliance this season. He cooled off in conference play, but has the type of potential to make this team miles better next season.
The winner of this game will face the No. 6 seeded Ole Miss Rebels on Thursday. Both teams were blown out by the Rebels in their prior match-up this season, so it’s already an extremely tough path for both of these teams if they are to even hope of going far in the conference tournament.
It’s hard to see a scenario in which Missouri wins this game. The team has been far too inconsistent this season, and I like what Frank Martin has been doing in South Carolina, even if it’s not getting the results most fans want. Expect Ole Miss to be facing the Gamecocks for a place in the quarterfinals on Thursday.