Back to the Drawing Boards

Despite getting 20 points from Ramon Galloway in his first start of the 2010-11 season, the Gamecocks suffered an embarrassing loss to the Auburn Tigers Saturday. Now it's back to the drawing board to prepare for a pivotal two-game road trip.

It's back to the drawing board for the South Carolina men's basketball team.

With Saturday's stunning 79-64 loss to Auburn that had even the most optimistic Gamecock fans shaking their head, the young Gamecocks took a giant step backwards in its hopes of surprising all the basketball experts and making the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

This Auburn team is bad. It's worse than bad. It's downright putrid. With losses to UNC Ashville, Samford, Campbell, Jacksonville, Presbyterian - yes, Presbyterian - and six straight losses to open conference play, many wondered if this team would be able to win a conference game all season - some saying the worst team in SEC history. Not only did they win a conference game, they dominated a South Carolina team that has wins over Vanderbilt, Florida and Arkansas on their home court.

We all knew coming into the season that, while very talented, this team would have it's ups and downs. With three freshmen currently starting and two more seeing action off the bench, it was expected to have some struggles.

What happened Saturday was beyond struggling - even worse than the 91-75 loss to Furman. There was very little defense played, poor shooting against the Auburn zone defense, and not much energy. It looked like a team that expected to just show up and that would be enough. Any coach will tell you that the most dangerous type of a team is an inferior team that believes it actually has a chance to win. That's what we saw Saturday. As the game wore on you could see Auburn playing with more energy and shooting with more and more confidence than the Gamecocks.

That game is over now. Sure it will haunt the Gamecocks the remainder of the season. Every time Carolina is mentioned as being a bubble team, you'll see Auburn in the key losses section along with Furman. But there's no changing that now. The only thing this team can do now is move forward.

It starts Wednesday night in Baton Rouge. LSU is in the same category as Auburn. The Tigers are 10-11, 2-4 SEC and has losses to Nicholls, Coastal, Wichita State, North Texas, and Rice. One of LSU's two conference wins is against - you guessed it - Auburn. The other was a three point win over Arkansas. The Tigers will be coming off a 24 point loss at Alabama. With the loss to Auburn, this becomes a must-win for the Gamecocks. Three straight conference losses - two against the worst teams in the conference - will be nearly impossible to overcome.

After LSU, the Gamecocks head to Nashville to take on the Commodores. Vanderbilt is always a tough place to play at. Before Saturday's loss to Arkansas, the last time Vanderbilt had lost at home was to Carolina on Senior Day last year. Just as the wins over Vanderbilt and Florida offset the loss to Furman, a road win and season sweep over the Commodores may be able to offset Saturday's loss.

The Gamecocks will then return home for a key homestand against Georgia and Florida. Depending on what happens in Baton Rouge and Nashville next week, those two games have the potential to make or break the 2010-11 season.

Darrin Horn and the Gamecocks will get back to work Sunday to put this loss to bed and get ready for the other Tigers. They have too. Their NCAA hopes are hanging perilously in the balance.

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