After Archie went down with a knee injury early against Miami at the Charleston Classic in November, the Gamecocks ended up losing by 15. Since then, the Gamecocks have had their moments, beating Western Kentucky handily and knocking off Richmond by 18. But when South Carolina hits the road, it struggles.
The Gamecocks lost by 11 at Clemson, which is no shame, and then fell by seven at Wofford. Having Archie is no guarantee they would have won either game, but there is clearly a presence missing.
Now he’s gone for the season, as the school announced Monday that doctors have decided he should undergo right knee surgery. The problem for the Gamecocks in their quest to get to the NCAA tournament is the division within the SEC. Sure, they will have more opportunities for quality wins than teams in the West. But playing Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida and Vanderbilt twice will be made much more difficult without Archie’s veteran presence.
Competition for NCAA bids this season may be tighter than usual because of the overall mediocrity. Differentiating the teams will be even more difficult. Coming into the season, South Carolina fit into that collection of teams that was in the muddled masses -- the Gamecocks had to separate themselves early. They certainly rely more heavily on Downey’s ability to change the game and make plays now, but not having the Archie experience may leave them unbalanced.
South Carolina (7-3) has four more nonconference games -- Furman, Baylor and Longwood at home, and at Boston College. The Gamecocks can’t afford to go limping into the SEC.
New Mexico shot up to No. 12 in the coaches poll and No. 13 in the AP. That’s a credit to New Mexico coach Steve Alford and the unassuming players on his roster. But let’s not get too carried away. The Lobos are one of the best teams in the Mountain West, but they’re not the 12th or 13th best team in the country. The polls are a reflection of the current week, not a projection. And that’s why a team like Florida State should be ranked ahead of Georgia Tech after beating the Yellow Jackets in overtime Sunday night. That’s why I would have had no problems if Gonzaga wasn’t ranked this week after playing so poorly Saturday against Duke in New York. Of the teams ranked from 19 to 25, the one playing the best basketball is Ole Miss, which is ranked No. 21. If you were to re-rank the order of these teams, it would seem Ole Miss -- the only team to beat Kansas State this season -- should be ahead of Washington and UNLV.