The four foes that have become the defeated teams in the Florida Gators’ four-game winning streak in men’s basketball all had this or that to recommend them: Tennessee was once thought of as the class of the SEC, Georgia had home court, Vanderbilt has future NBA player Scotty Pippen, Jr., and West Virginia had a rugged frontcourt.
South Carolina? Not so much.
The beleaguered Gamecocks, beset by COVID-19 problems so profound that they went nearly the full month of December without seeing the floor, found a new rock bottom for SEC play this season last Saturday, getting drilled by previously winless Vanderbilt — and by 12 points in a game that wasn’t really that close. Frank Martin’s team owns SEC wins — over Texas A&M and Georgia, each a cellar-dweller in its own right — and does have the distinction of being in the top 10 nationally in offensive rebound rate, but that’s about all there is to recommend the ‘Cocks.
They shoot poorly: A.J. Lawson’s 38 percent clip from three is best on the team, and they’re under 34 percent from deep and under 50 percent on twos collectively. Their point guard, erstwhile YouTube legend Seventh Woods, hemorrhages turnovers, giving up the ball on nearly two in five possessions. They can’t defend, not really — 93 points to Vandy, 109 to Auburn — and yet push the pace like Formula 1 drivers.
They are, in so many ways, set up for Florida to have a field day on this day in the O’Connell Center. And Florida owes a Martin-led South Carolina a comfortable loss or three.
But, as ever, there is a reason they play the games.