USC Has Much To Play For In Hoover

One of the biggest problems with the SEC Tournament in past years has been its lack of importance to many teams. South Carolina has been there before, but this year is certainly an important one for Coach Ray Tanner's squad. Read inside for detailed analysis of this week's tournament and what the Gamecocks will look to accomplish in order to secure one of the coveted, eight national seeds.


The Gamecocks need a successful performance to lock down one of the eight national seeds. With at least five of the seeds likely already locked up, the Gamecocks will need to go deep into the SEC tournament to earn one of the remaining three spots. That would assure the Gamecocks of hosting not only a regional but also a super regional on their quest to return to Omaha.

In the conference tournament, it's often nice to be the number three or four seed, because in the past, the top two seeds usually have their goals locked up and have little to play for. With Vanderbilt the only SEC team that has secured a national seed, however, six of the squads in this week's tournament will have much to play for. Arkansas and USC are vying for a national seed, while Mississippi State and Ole Miss are battling for a Regional host bid. Alabama should get into the tournament at large, but Tennessee and Florida will need a strong run just to get into the field of 64.

The Gamecocks have drawn Arkansas, Florida and Alabama in their bracket. USC went 3-3 against Florida and Alabama with Arkansas being the one team the Gamecocks didn't play this year. USC will face the #6 seed Florida (28-28) in game one Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. The Gators have gone 5-7 in their last 12 SEC games and are coming off an 11-7 defeat on Saturday to Tennessee.

Carolina will likely face Kyle Mullaney, a freshman right hander that is 4-2 on the year and earned a starting role in the second half of the season. Mullaney saw time against the Gamecocks during their Saturday match up and went 3.1 innings while giving up four hits and three runs with two walks and two strikeouts.

As it's been for a long time against the Gators, Gamecock pitchers will have to be cautious of first baseman Matt LaPorta. He finished the year with a .419 batting average, 19 HRs, 50 RBIs and only 15 strikeouts.

If the favorites win, the Gamecocks will face Arkansas. With ace Nick Schmidt expected to pitch on Wednesday, the Gamecocks will face right handed junior Jess Todd, whose 8-2 record is the best on the team. Todd is coming off of a nine inning, 12 strikeout performance against Ole Miss.

If the Gamecocks come out of their bracket, they'll face the winner of the other side with Vanderbilt, Miss St., Ole Miss, and Tennessee. Although Vandy is the best team, don't be surprised if Ole Miss comes through. Their deep pitching staff along with their need to win the tournament to possibly host a Regional could go a long way.

CLARY'S ANALYSIS

So what exactly do the Gamecocks need to do to get that coveted national seed? In my opinion, a spot in the SEC tournament finals is the minimum. Anything less will likely result in the Gamecocks having to travel away from the familiar confines of Sarge Frye Field for a Super Regional.

Gamecock fans should watch Virginia, UC Irvine, Missouri, Wichita St. and Coastal Carolina this week, and the worse these teams do, the better the situation for USC.

Expected rotation: Harris Honeycutt on Wednesday, Arik Hempy on Thursday, Mike Cisco for Game three, and Blake Cooper for Game four. Will Atwood is the favorite for a possible Game five, and whoever has an arm left for Game six.

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