USC returns home to host Wofford

The Gamecocks will finish up the non-conference portion of their schedule Monday night against upstate foe Wofford. Carolina is coming off its biggest win of the year, an 85-84 road win over #19 Baylor. The Terriers are the eighth in-state opponent for Carolina this season, and the Gamecocks are 5-2 against Palmetto State teams thus far.

Wofford is 4-5 on the season, and comes to Columbia giving up more points (68.6) than they score (68.2). The Terriers are led by guard Junior Salters, who is averaging 17.3 points per game and shooting 44% from behind the arc. Salters sat out the Terriers' previous game against Navy with an injury, and is listed as a game time decision for Monday's game. If Salters cannot play, the Terriers will look to sophomore forwards Tim Johnson (9.9 points and 9.4 rebounds) and Noah Dahlman ( points and rebounds) to pick up the slack. Johnson and Dahlman will be undersized going against the Gamecocks (6'5", 235 pounds and 6'6", 220 pounds respectively), so it could be a long night for the Terriers. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series with the Terriers 39-18. Wofford's last win came in 1939, by a commanding 33-31 margin.

The win over Baylor was important for South Carolina on several levels. The loss to Arch-rival Clemson could have had a devastating effect on the Gamecocks. They led 14-3 in the first half, but after that the Tigers "dominated the game in every way," according to Darrin Horn. Last season, Carolina had a similar loss to Baylor that the team never seemed to mentally recover from. This year they were able to respond with Carolina's first win over a ranked opponent since the victory over Ole Miss last season, and first win over a non-conference ranked team since 1997, when the Gamecocks upset eighth-ranked Cincinnati.

Of equal importance, the victory gives Carolina a win over a ranked opponent. The Gamecocks have no glaringly bad losses so far, but they are also short on quality wins. Despite their sterling 10-2 record, it is no secret that the Gamecocks have played a weak schedule, but the numbers are startling. Carolina has played just four teams with winning records, and gone 2-2 against those teams. They beat 7-4 Jacksonville State (89-76) and 12-2 Baylor (85-84), while losing to 10-2 College of Charleston (82-80 in overtime) and 14-0 Clemson (98-87).

According to CBS Sportsline, the Gamecocks' strength of schedule is 292nd out of 343 Division I teams. Their opponents' winning percentage is just 0.428, but that is a marked improvement over what it was prior to the last two games. If you discount the games against ranked foes Clemson and Baylor, the opponents' winning percentage is a woeful 0.321. Carolina has played three teams that are not even full Division I members yet (USC Upstate, Presbyterian, and N.C. Central).

In most seasons, 20 wins would make an NCAA Tournament birth almost automatic. That might not be the case for Carolina this year. In addition to the week non-conference schedule, the SEC is letting the Gamecocks down. Although every member of the SEC has a winning record, the SEC has just one ranked team, Tennessee, and the Volunteers lost Saturday at unranked Kansas.

Carolina's RPI, again according to CBS Sportsline, is 105. There are only three SEC teams with a worse RPI (#161 Mississippi State, #173 Alabama, and #196 Georgia), and Wofford is actually ranked higher than USC at 88, which means the Gamecocks can move up. The question, though, is how much? Only three SEC teams (#21 Tennessee, #39 Florida, and #63 Vanderbilt) are in the top 65 of the RPI.

Tipoff is at 7:00 PM. The game will be televised by SportSouth.

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