By Rixon Lane
In the wake of South Carolina's close conference wins against Kentucky and Missouri, some have questioned whether the Gamecocks deserve the number beside their name.
Despite an unblemished record, there has been debate over whether South Carolina should remain the top team in the nation.
While advocates for the UConn Huskies have valid points, I'll have to respectfully disagree.
Let's take a look at the resumes. South Carolina owns a 17-0 record with wins over Kentucky, Duke, and Syracuse, all ranked teams. UConn is currently 16-1 and has beaten two currently ranked teams, Notre Dame and Duke. The Huskies also lost on the road in overtime to Stanford in the second game of the season. Stanford was ranked 6th at the time, but that Cardinal team has slipped to 13th after dropping four games in non-conference play.
By the way, one of those losses was to Southern Conference foe Chattanooga.
The reason for the recent chatter about South Carolina's ranking is due to the fact that the Gamecocks have scuffled at times in conference play. Auburn gave the Gamecocks a run, Kentucky hung around until the very end, and South Carolina needed to knock down late free throws to top Missouri. Meanwhile, the Huskies have won their six conference games by an average of 40 points.
But are these conference games equal?
In the 11-team American Athletic Conference, there are four teams with winning records at the moment. Tulane, South Florida, and East Carolina are the only teams other than UConn with above-.500 records in the league. Six teams in the conference currently have losing records.
The 14-team SEC doesn't have a team with a losing record.
South Carolina's biggest conference win is a 43-point win over an 11-9 Alabama team that beat Nebraska, a top-20 team, in non-conference play.
UConn's biggest conference win is a 59-point win over a 4-13 SMU team that has lost by double-digits this season to Northern Colorado and Temple.
When you play good teams twice a week, you're not going to blow each one out. There is no denying that South Carolina has issues that must be addressed if the Gamecocks want to have a shot at a national championship. However, South Carolina should not be punished for playing in a good conference and UConn should not be reward for annihilating bad teams.
The good news for fans and voters?
By February 9th, this will sort itself out.